Bridgeport, Paul Vallas, Yohuru Williams Bridgeport, Education Reform, Paul Vallas, Yohuru Williams
Yohuru Williams: The perils of top-down school reform
Dr. Yohuru Williams is chair and professor of history at Fairfield University. Follow him on Twitter @yohuruwilliams. This commentary piece was first published in the Connecticut Post on November 1, 2013
The latest debacle involving Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas is a not-so-subtle reminder of what is truly at stake in Bridgeport and around the nation with regard to so-called school reform — American democracy.
One of the primary criticisms of the Bush-Obama model of market-driven educational reform is the dictatorial style in which many of its so-called champions operate and the chilling effect this has had on local control of schools. In most cases, administrators like Vallas parachute into communities to which they have no real ties with an “I’ve got all the answers” approach that seeks to limit rather than encourage community participation. In the race to receive federal funds, the voice of “the people” is diminished as administrators pursue a scorched earth policy aimed not only at teacher unions but school boards and local PTAs.
There is no room for a diversity of voices in the corporate hierarchy. Many of the so-called reformers want to run schools like mini- corporations, with administrators beholden not to communities, but appointed boards of directors — a far cry from the days of the popularly elected school board. It is not only this model of corporate management but also its language that has seeped into the structure of public education. In Maryland, for instance, school superintendents are now called CEOs.
Disregarding the voluminous data in educational research that discounts the changes they seek to implement, they nevertheless assume more power in the dismantling of public education. When their haphazard model of action is exposed, as it was last week with the dismissal of Principal Byron Williams, of the newly formed military academy, less than three months into the job, the real dangers are revealed.
Responding to criticism over the dismissal of Williams, whom he praised just two months earlier as “outstanding,” Vallas highlighted the school’s poor performance, complaining that “discipline is weak,” and “instruction needs to be stronger.” But how exactly could he make such determinations in just nine weeks? Is this merely another example of the duck and cover language often employed to shield the rhetoric of top-down reform, where incompetence parades as progress and the staples of democracy, transparency, due process and democratic decision-making are the first casualties?
Although never enamored with the idea of a boot camp dressed up as “military academy” as the solution to Bridgeport’s problems, I nevertheless have to ask the question: What was the real reason for Williams’ dismissal? If we don’t have reasonable expectations for principals, how can we ever expect to have them for teachers or even students? We are not managing a McDonald’s or stocking the shelves at Walmart. Schools are not assembly lines.
Let’s be clear. The Common Core, a military academy, and a sprinter superintendent won’t fix Bridgeport’s public schools. I borrow the term “sprinter superintendent” from Stanford Professor Emeritus Larry Cuban. In an Aug. 4 blog post, he outlined the formula employed by “reformers” such as Vallas who swing into crisis cities with a cookie-cutter program for change. They scurry about in their haste to bolster student achievement, measured by test scores, while introducing changes that often leave stakeholders disappointed and their communities in shambles. Like Cervantes’ fictional hero Don Quixote — an appropriate analogy since their narratives are also the stuff of fiction — they charge at windmills, dragons of their own making, including teacher unions, underperforming district administrators and, in some cases, such as in Bridgeport, democratically elected school boards, all in the name of the fixing the “crisis” in American education.
They often seem more interested in how their actions play in the media, never missing the opportunity to lambaste teachers, parents and apparently even the persons they appoint. Their impatience with change is equally quixotic. Firing a principal after nine weeks is extreme even by corporate standards. Most companies offer three months’ probation.
The real issue in this case was Williams’s alleged failure to secure the proper certification to head the school, ironically the same issue that should have already assured Vallas’ ouster as superintendent. Unfortunately, as we have seen time and time again, the rules operate on a sliding scale. Rule-breaking at the highest levels is celebrated as take-charge innovation rather than the worst kind of malfeasance — that which threatens the future of our children.
Vallas, like his colleagues in other states, has instituted faux community involvement through community conversations. In reality, these events have proved to be little more than public relations ploys, giving the specter of community engagement while blocking any meaningful dialogue. Mostly dominated by the superintendent with a brief and tightly regulated period for questions and answers, they mock real engagement.
The question for us all is: is this the model we want to present to young people of democracy in action? In communities already short on patience and long on frustration with the failure of the democratic process, it is not unreasonable to think of the chilling effect not only on the parents but the students, whose first glimpses of democracy in action have been skewed by market-driven educational reform.
Bridgeport, Democratic Party, Democratic State Central Committee, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas Bridgeport, Education Reform, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Paul Vallas
In a story entitled, Michelle Rhee revolution faces massive threat — and new accusations,” Salon Magazine’s Josh Eidelson wries, “In Bridgeport, a quiet bipartisan scheme to protect ed reformers’ favorite school chief is suspected by critics.”
The story paints a partial picture of what the Malloy, Finch, Pryor, Vallas cabal are doing to try and preserve Governor Malloy’s education reform efforts in Connecticut’s largest city.
“Education reform lightning rod Paul Vallas – who courted controversy helming school districts in Philadelphia, New Orleans and Chicago — isn’t on the ballot tomorrow. But a school board election in Bridgeport, Conn. – the latest district to tap Vallas to oversee reforms — could effectively spell his fate. Tomorrow’s vote will offer the latest referendum on the bipartisan, billionaire-backed mainstream education reform movement, and on a multi-year effort by local Democrats – aided by the likes of Michael Bloomberg and Michelle Rhee — to defeat or disempower labor-backed dissenters.
“As I’ve gone around the country, I always point to Bridgeport as one of the signs that the people can beat the power,” former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and high-profile reform critic Diane Ravitch told activists on a conference call last month. Tuesday’s election is the latest round in a long-running war over ed reform, and who should shape it, in the largest city in one of the country’s most unequal states.
For the sake of shielding Vallas and his agenda, activists allege that the city’s Democratic machine has acted indifferent or even hostile to defeating Republicans tomorrow.
“What’s at stake is the future direction of Bridgeport schools,” said Connecticut Working Families Party executive director Lindsay Farrell, citing issues including testing and class size. “And I think, in a broader sense, the direction of public education in this country.”
As I’ve reported, Bridgeport’s school board became a battleground in 2009, when two of its Republican members were ousted in an election by candidates from the labor-backed Working Families Party. While Bridgeport is overwhelmingly Democratic, by law no more than two-thirds of its nine school board seats can be held by the same party. While the board’s Democrats and Republicans had often seen eye to eye on education, the WFP didn’t. “They were very effective at questioning the status quo,” Bridgeport Education Association vice president Rob Traber told Salon last year, and when Mayor Bill Finch’s superintendent pushed unpopular cuts in 2011, the Democratic machine and its business allies got “afraid that they might lose control of the board.”
You can read the full story at: http://www.salon.com/2013/11/04/how_bipartisan_antics_could_save_the_next_michelle_rhee_from_humiliation/.
And Salon doesn’t even deal with the campaign finance issues highlighted in the recent Wait, What? articles such as this one: Did you make a contribution to the Democratic State Central Committee?
Education Reform, Malloy, Obama, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing Education Reform, Malloy, Obama, Sarah Darer Littman, Standardized Testing
Sarah Darer Littman, a fellow public education advocate, blogger and regular commentator here at Wait,What? is also an award-winning author of books for young people.
Last week she and a number of other leading authors and illustrators wrote a powerful letter to President Obama about the inappropriate use of standardized testing and the failings of the corporate education reform movement.
In a commentary piece that appeared in the Connecticut Post and Stamford Advocate, Sarah Darer Littman explains why she and the authors took this important step;
“I am proud to have been a signatory to a letter sent to President Obama last week, along with over 120 authors and illustrators of books for children — including luminaries of the field such as Maya Angelou, Judy Blume and Jane Yolen.
We signed on to the letter because we know that lighting the fire of literacy is critical to our nation’s future, and we’re deeply concerned that current educational policy is dousing that fire. When one receives letters from young people telling them how reading your book has changed their life, it creates a special responsibility to advocate for change.
As you ponder who to vote for in your local Board of Education elections, please consider carefully each candidate’s position on excessive standardized testing.
Party label is no indication of position, alas — over-testing insanity might have started under a Republican administration with No Child Left Behind, but rather than correcting the problem, the Obama administration’s policies have reinforced it. Here in Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy even went so far as to state that he’d “settle for teaching to the test” as long as it meant raising test scores.
In many of the schools in Connecticut that need them the most, we don’t have full-time librarians, or libraries filled with books that appeal to young people. Yet we’re spending a fortune on consultants, and on technology to implement what — more testing. Author Neil Gaiman summed it up in a recent lecture, “Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming”:
“The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them.”
Test scores don’t matter as much as raising a nation of life-long readers — because reading fiction is a key to imagination and creativity. It is both a mirror, where we can see that we are not alone in our experiences, and a window, where we can learn to empathize with the experiences of others whose lives might be very different from our own.
A friend of mine in New York state called me, upset, after receiving the results of the tests this fall. Her son’s reading scores weren’t what she’d expected, and she wondered if she should worry. I know her son well — he loves reading and we have lively discussions about the latest book. I sent her links to numerous articles about the flawed Pearson ELA tests and told her that there was nothing the matter with her son — that he’s a bright kid who loves reading and that it borders on criminal that these tests would even create a doubt in her mind about the truth of this.
Please consider this carefully when voting for Board of Education. Vote for literacy, not test score-driven “readicide.”
You can read Sarah Darer Littman’s piece at: http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/A-vote-for-literacy-not-testing-4933218.php.
You can read the author’s letter to Obama and additional background on Valerie Strauss’ blog at the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/22/top-authors-including-maya-angelou-urge-obama-to-curb-standardized-testing/
Achieve Hartford, Achievement First/ConnCAN, Alan Taylor, Charter Schools, Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), Education Reform, Excel Bridgeport Inc., Malloy, Stefan Pryor Allan Taylor, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Education Reform, Malloy, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
Pryor packs Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan Advisory Committee with charter school and corporate reform advocates.
As mandated by Connecticut General Statutes Section 10-4(c), every five years the Connecticut State Board of Education must develop a new five-year Comprehensive Plan for Elementary, Secondary, Vocational, Career and Adult Education in Connecticut. Upon adoption by the State Board of Education, the plan is submitted to the Governor and the General Assembly’s Education Committee.
In the past, this process has been developed with the broad-based consensus of public educators from throughout Connecticut.
In December 2005, the State Board of Education appointed an advisory committee that included a broad array of organizations and individuals engaged in promoting public education in the state. Narrowly focused special interest lobbying groups such as the Connecticut Charter Schools Network (CCSN) were allowed to present testimony but were not put on the Advisory Committee.
The 2005 committee represented the wide spectrum of Connecticut’s public education community: teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, public school students, Connecticut’s technical schools and institutions of higher education made up the core of the committee along with some representatives of Connecticut’s business community.
Advisory committee members had a long track-record of expertise in Connecticut public schools working with a diverse population of Connecticut students. This is just the type of group we would want to determine the long-term vision for our school districts.
A comprehensive plan requires a broad thinking group that looks out for the interests of all our children.
But now that Governor Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor have taken the helm, those days are gone. Instead of appointing members dedicated to the long-term development of quality public education in Connecticut, they have poisoned the Advisory Committee and the process for developing the new five-year comprehensive plan by packing it with corporate education reform groups that have consistently revealed their narrow political agendas.
Public education has been a primary target of America’s growing corporate education reform industry. Over the past three years, these so-called reformers have spent a record breaking $6 million plus lobbying on behalf of Governor Malloy’s education reform initiatives, many of which have been aimed at promoting the privatization of public education in the state.
The corporate reformers also dumped record amounts into elections in Bridgeport, first in a failed effort to change the City’s charter to do away with a democratically-elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by the mayor and then in a failed effort to elect members of the board of education who support Bridgeport’s faux superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas.
Now it has become painfully clear that all that money has paid off, at least when it comes to trying to control the discussion around Connecticut’s Comprehensive Education Plan for 2013-2018.
The new Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee has been packed with pro-corporate reform organizations.
When the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee meets for the first time tomorrow from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm at the Legislative Office Building many of the seats will be filled with corporate education reform industry representatives.
New members of the State Board of Education’s Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee include representatives from:
- Achieve Hartford!
- Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN)
- Connecticut Council on Education Reform
- Excel Bridgeport
- Northeast Charter Schools Network
- Students for Education Reform – Connecticut
- Teach for America – Connecticut
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), the charter school lobby group formed by the board members of Achievement First, Inc. has spent more than any other organization lobbying for Malloy’s Education Reform bills. Of course, ConnCAN’s relationship with Achievement First, Inc. is especially noteworthy since Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.
Connecticut Council on Education Reform is the New Haven-based, corporate-funded education reform organization that joined ConnCAN and Michelle Rhee’s Students First/GNEPSA in running television ads supporting Malloy’s reforms.
The Northeast Charter School Network is the New York based charter school advocacy group that recently merged with the Connecticut Charter School Network.
Students for Education Reform – is the quintessential corporate “astro turf” lobbying organization bankrolled by a variety of education reform groups. Recall that in 2012, Students for Education Reform organized a “ student demonstration” in favor of Malloy’s reforms on the Capitol steps but when students at the demonstration were questioned about why they were there, they had no idea what they were demonstrating about.
Students for Education Reform’s Board of Directors includes Jonathan Sackler who is also on the Boards of Achievement First, Inc. and ConnCAN. Another one of Students for Education Reform Directors is Justin Cohen. Cohen is the President of MassInsight, the out-of-state consulting company that recently received a $1 million contract from Pryor. Cohen also served as a moderator for Malloy’s education reform conference before Governor Malloy introduced his reform bill and Cohen traveled to Connecticut to submit testimony in support of Governor Malloy’s education reform bill when it was first introduced.
Prior to becoming President of Mass Insight Education’s School Turnaround Group, Justin Cohen was the Director of the Office of Portfolio Management and senior advisor to Chancellor Michelle Rhee at the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).
Excel Bridgeport and Achieve Hartford! are two corporate affiliated organizations that have worked toward expanding charter schools.
And Teach for America – Connecticut Chapter is the vendor that is making millions of dollars thanks to contracts in Bridgeport, Hartford, New London, New Haven, Windham and elsewhere to place minimally trained recent college graduates to fill jobs that should be held by certified Connecticut school teachers who have graduated from Connecticut’s college and universities. It should be noted that the Chairman of Excel Bridgeport’s Board of Directors is none other than the Executive Director of Teach for America – Connecticut Chapter.
Perhaps even more disturbing, Teach for America, along with ConnCAN, Excel’s leadership and State Board of Education President Allan Taylor, were the behind-the-scenes architects of the secret and illegal 2011 state takeover of Bridgeport’s democratically elected board of education
Many of these groups, like Teach for America and the charter lobbies, have been singularly focused on using public funds to expand their businesses in Connecticut.
Charter schools serve 1% of Connecticut’s students. Yet they have been given SEVEN seats on the new Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee
Although some of these corporate education reform organizations have been plaguing our state for several years, others have absolutely no history in Connecticut.
All of these groups are primarily funded by national networks. Why should these narrow groups, dedicated to serving outside interests, be determining the future of Connecticut’s public education system?
Why should groups standing to gain contracts with the State Department of Education even be allowed to serve on this committee?
When it comes to pushing their pro corporate education reform industry agenda, there has been no doubt where Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor stand, but this latest move to ensure their agenda becomes part of Connecticut’s five year comprehensive education plan is perhaps their most offensive move yet.
Education Reform, Hartford, Steve Perry Capital Preparatory Magnet School Capital Preparatory Magnet School, Education Reform, Hartford, Steve Perry
It’s another day and the Steven Perry, the principal of Capital Preparatory school in Hartford Connecticut has returned to his obsessive use of Twitter to promote his mongering.
As administrators, teachers, parents and community members across the nation have become increasingly aware of the short and long term effects of bullying, Steven Perry has become a prime example of the lack of humanity and decency in the corporate education reform industry.
While taking over $150,000 in taxpayer salary and benefits every year, Steven Perry uses public resources to insult, harangue, disparage, malign, defame and denigrate those with whom he disagrees with on political issues.
Yesterday, Perry’s approach can be seen when he tweeted, “There is a small group of suburban middle class, “educators” who are fighting violently to keep this system. They’re on the ropes now.”
When a reader asked, “Violently”?? Did you really mean to use the term “violently”?
Perry tweeted, “Clearly, I wrote it.”
Steven Perry desperately wants to be seen as part of the “solution,” but his inappropriate outbursts reveal a man who is not only part of the problem but is unwilling to follow the most basic rules, regulations and policies associated with his publicly-funded position.
While every American is guaranteed freedom of speech, in the days and weeks ahead we’ll learn more and more about Perry’s inappropriate and potentially illegal behavior and conduct.
Like most bullies, in response to the allegations, we’ll hear him whining about being misunderstood, mistreated or he’ll start blaming others for his actions; but the laws about the inappropriate use of public resources is clear, concise and applies to everyone — even Steven Perry.
Take this past Friday as an example,
With the school day under way, when he was supposed to be attending to his duties as a principal of a “no excuses” school, the captain left the helm to return to his uncontrolled and vitriolic hate toward public school advocate Diane Ravitch and the American Federation of Teacher’s President, Randi Weingarten.
Among Perry’s many tweets including the following:
“Do you REALLY believe only ppl who can pay for school should get #schoolchoice? Wow. Just admit it’s about jobs. (9:04 am)”
“You REALLY believe poor minority kids should ONLY be ALLOWED to go to the poor minority schools in their ‘hood? (9:06 am)”
And then over the course of the next five hours, Steven Perry returns to his personal twitter account more than a dozen times to engage in political activities in direct violation of the laws and of the State of Connecticut and his employer, the City of Hartford.
Perhaps the most outrageous attacks were aimed that the union that represents his teachers. Perry tweeted;
“Remember I said I would shine the light of truth on the unions & they would come out? Introducing Andrea Johnson, Hartford’s union boss.”
“Our efforts to end racist #zipcodediscrimination laws has got union bosses in full attack mode.”
“Union bosses like Andrea Johnson use good teachers’ dues & works to push silly grievances…”
“HFT has lost every grievance they’ve brought against CPrep since 2005…”
Connecticut taxpayers are sick and tired of high ranking officials at the federal, state and local level wasting scarce resources and acting as if laws, rules and policies apply to everyone but themselves.
Here in Connecticut, state and municipal employees have lost their jobs for engaging in inappropriate activities such as politics and bullying on the public dime.
Steve Perry has been devoting a disproportionate amount of time on his private consulting, despite his public salary and the limitations that go with engaging in private business on public time.
Even more serious are allegations contained in documents received from two Capital Prep teachers who left the school after the last year. One with years of experience and another who was relatively new to the school have provided reports that appear to reveal that Steven Perry’s discipline policies lead to what could only be defined as servere emotional, and even physical, abuse.
As the documents and stories are confirmed they will be turned over the State’s child advocate and other appropriate officials.
In the meantime, let us hope up the General Assembly’s Committee on Children and Education Committee will hold a public hearing on what could very well be the abusive disciplinary policies of schools like Achievement First, Jumoke Academy and Capital Prep.
As one former Capital Prep parent recently explained, “As a result of their abusive policies, my child came home crying day after day. I pull him out and he returned to our local school district where he is doing much better.”
Steven Perry may himself “America’s Most Trusted Educator,” but more and more former teachers, parents and students have ample evidence to proving otherwise.
Education Reform, Hartford, Steve Perry Capital Preparatory Magnet School Capital Prep, Education Reform, Hartford, Steve Perry
In response to yesterday’s Wait, What? post about his latest twitter diatribe and the fact that his claims about Capital Prep’s success don’t match up the actual facts, Dr. Steve Perry, the self-proclaimed “Most Trusted Educator” in America, returned to tweeter to complain that, “One [critic] spent his morning counting my tweets not realizing I was on a plane & my personal leave. It’s so not about kids for these union thugs.”
“Not about the kids for these union thugs” Really?
With that tweet, Perry managed, in less than 140 characters, to highlight the accuracy of the very criticisms that have been leveled against his offensive, immature, unsophisticated, inappropriate and ignorant behavior.
In Steven Perry’s “no excuse” world, the demarcation of appropriate behavior is absolute.
Standing straight, wearing the right colored belt, appropriate behavior and using the correct language are the exclusive pathways to success in life.
This from a man who uses the term racist on anyone who disagrees with his political philosophy, all the while, collecting a six figure Connecticut taxpayer funded salary without faithfully fulfilling the duties mandated in the job.
Steven Perry is well aware that taking care of personal affairs during work time is a violation. Engaging in outside employment on public time is even worse and using public funds and pubic to engage in politics is a crime.
But Steve Perry has become a prime example of those who believe the rules apply exclusively to others.
In yesterday’s post Perry’s defensively whines that he was “on a plane & my personal leave.”
But of course, the no excuses champion knows perfectly well that he couldn’t have possibly been using his personal leave” time since his contract only allows 5 personal days a year, all of which can only be used for extremely limited purposes, all requiring pre-approval and none of the reasons relate to leaving work to get paid to make a speech.
Maybe in his rush to defend his actions Steve Perry meant to say he was using vacation time to travel the country and not personal time, but even then issues arise considering in the first five weeks of school he has been out and about, mostly on school days, to Fort Lauderdale, Jackson, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Birmingham and that doesn’t even count his recent trips to Dallas and Rochester.
Or maybe he simply and inappropriately called in sick while he raced off on his self-promotion tours leaving his fellow administrators, teachers and students behind.
As one veteran teacher recently reported, Capital Prep administrators join teachers for mandatory staff meetings three times a week; Perry has been showing up less and less lately.
Leaving aside how he is managing to fulfill his legal duties as a public employee while maximizing his outside consulting business, Steven Perry seems to overlooking various conflict of interest issues that arise as a public official. One of the co-sponsors of one of his most recent speeches…Pearson, the massive standardized testing and curriculum company.
However, beyond the question of whether he is inappropriately or even illegally taking taxpayer funds while conducting personal business on public time, there are the issues related to his unending abusive and bullying language.
No public official or “educator,” not even Steven Perry, has the right to engage in such bullying.
During one recent school day, Perry returned to his unrelenting attack on Diane Ravitch tweeting, “Fine, be against #schoolchoice BUT stop using it too. Hypocrisy has no place in education @DianeRavitch @rweingarten nor does racism.”
Among the thirty plus emails he fired off in rapid succession during the work day were the following;
- “Beware of ppl who work @ elite private col, send their own kids to private schls, are paid by unions BUT fight #schoolchoice @DianeRavitch”
- “If you’re against all charters bc SOME are low performing, then are you against all hood schools bc MOST of them are failing? Not about kids”
- “If you’re against crowded classes then why in the hell are you fighting so hard to make more kids go to crowded school who want out?”
All the while going after various unions including this tweet, “I would rather set $2,000 on fire than pay it to a union who fights to keep ineffective principals in front of kids.” One assumes he is referring to his own union, The Hartford Principals and Supervisors’ Union, Local 22, AFSA, AFL-CIO.
And that day was hardly unique.
Just a week earlier, a week in which he was away from school at least twice to give speeches; Perry spent another day on a twitter rant saying;
- “Why do districts think pouring more resources into TURBLE schools is the answer?” Bc they’ve been told that it will.”
- “What’s worse is, even as hood schools sit there 1/2 empty & failing, we STILL carelessly pump good kids & money into them.
- “If ant- #schoolchoice is REALLY TRYING TO UNDERSTAND ATTRITION start w your fails schools. THEY loose more kids each yr than EVERYONE.”
- “Millions of fams have either left or on waiting lists to get out. We MUST focus on who’s REALLY LOSING STUDENTS. IT’S NOT CHOICES SCHOOLS.”
- “MOST of the US’s urban districts have see SHARP DECLINES IN ENROLLMENT even w kids returning from choice schools. As much as a 1/3!”
- We MUST ask the w why so many fams want OUT of their hood school. Between THEIR REAL attrition & dropout rates we see a mass exodus.
And last but not least, “We make no apologies for being CPrep. Success has a way of clearing things up. That’s why more fams apply to CPrep than any other school.” And “Having NEVER counseled a kid out & hearing tales if this, I can say I don’t know. But I KNOW why they leave hood schools.”
Really… “No apologies for being CPrep”?
Having never counseled a kid out?
And yet one recent Capital Prep graduating class lost 40 percent of their students along the way…
CPrep – home of real attrition, dropout rates and a mass exodus.
Arne Duncan, Education Reform, Malloy, Wendy Lecker Arne Duncan, Education Reform, Malloy, Wendy Lecker
Fellow blogger and public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, has another “must read” commentary piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate.
Wendy Lecker lays out the case against Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, observing, “Secretary Duncan is the one in an alternate universe, and our students, teachers and taxpayers are paying the price.”
The commentary piece begins with;
“Education reformers claim that standardized test scores are an objective measure of student performance, and school and teacher quality; thus it is reasonable to attach severe consequences to them. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan demands that states administer standardized tests yearly so that we can “hold everyone accountable.” In fact, Duncan recently accused anyone who criticizes America’s overemphasis on tests as “living in an alternate universe.”
But the evidence is clear that test scores are not objective. Officials play with standardized test scores to further their political goals.
Proficiency levels, or “cut scores,” are politically determined. New York implemented new Common Core tests in 2013, setting such high cut scores that statewide proficiency rates dropped 20 to 30 percent from 2012. In Illinois and D.C., officials did the opposite. Facing the prospect of widespread school failure this year, Illinois quietly recalculated what “failure” meant. D.C. officials reverted to an earlier grading scale to make their scores look better.
The manipulation extends beyond cut scores. State officials move test scores and targets whenever it fits their agenda.
In New York, children who fail state tests must receive academic intervention services (AIS). The majority of children statewide failed the 2013 tests, resulting in a sharp increase in children that must receive AIS. Providing AIS to more children costs more money. To save money, the New York State Regents changed the threshold so that fewer children would qualify for AIS.
In doing so, the Regents essentially lined up the old tests against the new Common Core tests and developed a scale they claimed could equate the old and new scores. However, this type of equating is only valid if the new tests assess the same skills as the old tests.
Proponents sold the Common Core standards promising that they will teach entirely new “sophisticated reasoning skills” not found in previous state standards. Apparently, for the Regents, when it means that the state would have to spend money on additional services for children, the Common Core does not teach new skills.
Connecticut is requiring that teachers engage in similar statistical acrobatics. Districts across Connecticut are implementing the new, ill-conceived teacher evaluation plan. Teachers must set “student learning objectives” (SLOs) for each child. In subjects covered by state standardized tests, the SLO baseline must include a student’s score on the CMTs the previous year. Then, the teacher must set a goal for the student on the upcoming state tests. This year, districts can choose to administer either CMTs or the new Common Core pilot tests. For those districts using existing CMTs, teachers must somehow predict how each student will score on 2014′s CMTs.
In districts using the Common Core tests, teachers have it even worse. They must use the CMTs as a baseline, and predict a score for each child on the new Common Core tests. Thus, like the New York Regents, teachers must assume that the new tests assess the same skills as the CMTs.
Officials cannot have it both ways. Either the Common Core teaches different skills, in which case we cannot equate the old tests with the new tests. Or, the Common Core tests can be aligned with the old tests, in which case they assess the same skills the CMTs did and in which case we are wasting billions of dollars nationwide on a boondoggle.”
You can read Wendy Lecker’s the full commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Arne-Duncan-s-alternate-universe-4870140.php
Ann Evans de Bernard, Bridgeport, Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas Bridgeport, Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas
Ann Evans de Bernard, Ph.D recently retired as principal of Waltersville School in Bridgeport. In a two part commentary piece, she asks When is school reform not reform?
And then, with the power and authority that only comes from having served on the front lines of the effort to provide Bridgeport’s children with a quality education, she rips apart the falsehoods being spread by the education reform industry.
This is a must read article that you can find here http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/Ann-Evans-de-Bernard-When-is-school-reform-not-4863554.php and here http://www.ctpost.com/opinion/article/Ann-Evans-de-Bernard-Revisiting-the-meaning-of-4866687.php
When is school reform not reform?
Connecticut has received some amount of attention lately for the so-called school reform movement being sponsored and directed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stephan Pryor, and in Bridgeport, nationally known Superintendent Paul Vallas. “School reform efforts” are the words most often used in article after article about the current movement in education, which actually amounts to an effort to treat our poor neighborhoods and schools like part of some pre-war colonial empire. This movement is being heavily funded by millionaires who, as we know, do not send their children to public schools and who pretend to believe their paternalistic views on what “other people’s children” need are benevolent.
For supporters of such reform efforts — those who actually believe the agenda is reform — the accomplishments most often touted here in Connecticut are new textbooks, the opening of new schools, the changing of administrative categories and duties, the hiring of America’s “brightest and best” through the Teach for America program, and rampant transfer and reclassification of school personnel based on a new reliance on evaluation systems hooked to standardized test scores. So far, that’s what we have in the way of school reform. So what is reform, really? And how do school reform efforts today compare to what happened in schools when I grew up?
One would hope that by 2013 “school reform efforts” might include novel ideas, modernization or some hypothetical silver bullet that would once and for all equalize the educational opportunities for vastly unequal groups of children with vastly unequal housing, vastly unequal language backgrounds and vastly unequal lives.
Instead, I see an educational system that looks somewhat like the one I grew up in, except from my perspective, the “efforts” being expended now on behalf of children are not nearly so great and not nearly so altruistic as those I experienced as a child of the post-war baby boom. And, far from “transformation” or “improvement,” what is being done today in the name of school reform could at best be called old wine in old bottles, most of it not even good wine. At worst, it embodies a blatant disregard for the cultural integrity of real children living real lives, as if they were part of some unacceptable caste. So forgive me if I reminisce.
I began school in 1950 and attended elementary school in several of America’s large decaying factory cities. I attended both Catholic and public schools — in those days they weren’t much different except for the religious persuasion of the parents. Economically, in fact, some Catholic schools educated poorer children than public schools, given that many of the incoming children were recent immigrants from war-torn Europe. To help with the extras that children enjoy, we made donations and sold a lot of candy and raffle tickets. In the academic domain, you might win a spelling bee or a times-tables race, which in public school might yield a ribbon or a medal and in Catholic school an aging Blessed Mother statue, a holy card, or last year’s Saint Joseph from the back of the rectory. More
Alliance Districts, Education Reform, Poverty, Standardized Testing Alliance Districts, Education Reform, Poverty, Standardized Test Scores
Connecticut Children living in Poverty
CT 2001 10.2% live in poverty (82,000)
CT 2012: 14.8% live in poverty (117,000)
According to a study conducted by Connecticut Voices for Children, the independent research and advocacy organization, “At the start of the Great Recession, Connecticut experienced the largest increase in child poverty of any state in the nation, rising from 7.9% in 2007 to 9.3% in 2008. Data from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show that the official end of the Great Recession has had no real impact for the most vulnerable children in our state, who experienced a net increase in poverty from 2008 to 2012.
In fact, the number of children living in poverty has grown by almost 20% since 2008.
Just over a decade ago, Connecticut set an official policy goal of reducing child poverty by 50% over the next ten years. Instead, child poverty has grown by nearly 50% since 2001.
n Child poverty is the highest in our state’s urban areas: Hartford (53.1%), Waterbury (40.0%), New Haven (37.9%), Bridgeport (37.6%), New Britain (31.0%), Norwalk (13.0%), Danbury (11.0%) and Stamford (9.7%)
n At 53.1%, Hartford has the highest child poverty rate of any city with a population of over 100,000 in the United States.
The prevalence of poverty among children varies significantly along racial and ethnic lines;
- White children living in poverty in Connecticut = 5.8%
- African American children living in poverty in Connecticut = 24%
- Hispanic children living in poverty in Connecticut = 28%
Note that in 2012, the federal poverty threshold was $23,283 for a two-parent household with two children.
What does this data mean when it comes to improving academic performance in our state’s public schools?
Considering poverty, language barriers and the need for special education services are the three most important factors that influence standardized test scores; there can be no fundamental success when it comes to closing the “achievement gap” and “turning around” standardized test scores in Connecticut until we successfully confront that monumental influence that poverty is having on our children and their schools.
If so-called education advocates aren’t talking about combatting poverty and providing all poorer schools with the resources needed to help children overcome the effects of poverty then they aren’t true education advocates.
With well over 300-400 schools in “Alliance Districts,” (that is districts that are facing the greatest challenges); the solution is not cherry-picking 8-10 schools to become guinea pigs in the Commissioner’s Network experiment.
Instead, the Governor and General Assembly should be instituting systemic changes that ensure the State of Connecticut, and especially the State Department of Education, provide the resources and support necessary to help all the children in those Alliance Districts.
The policies being pushed by Governor Malloy and Commissioner Stefan Pryor are exactly the wrong solution for the very real problem facing many of our state’s school districts and the children that these districts have a constitutional obligation to serve.
Connecticut must re-do its education funding formula and develop real and effective teacher professional development programs rather than rely on the absurd notion that you can use test scores to force teachers out of the teaching profession and pummel those teachers who decide to remain.
Recognizing and accepting reality is the first step towards developing a solution.
And recognizing and accepting reality begins with the understanding that Connecticut, the state with the highest per capita income in the country is facing a major poverty crisis.
You can read more about the extremely disturbing trend in Connecticut at: http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/poverty-median-income-and-health-insurance-connecticut-summary-2012-american-community-
Education Reform, New Monastic Individuals, Paul Vallas Education Reform, Paul Vallas
New Monastic Individuals is a blog that should definitely be in your bookmarks. He is a friend, fellow blogger and part of the team working to take back public education in Connecticut.
His latest post is entitled, “The Paul Vallas Scam”
As the Connecticut Supreme Court considers whether to sustain (or over-rule) a Superior Court Judge’s ruling that Paul Vallas lacks the credentials necessary to serve as a superintendent in Connecticut, it’s helpful to understand the damage and devastation that Vallas leaves his wake.
The blogger writes;
This is a shout out to any and all who live in or near a school system that is facing the hardships of defunding, increased diversity in the population, English language learning and many of the other problems that seem to be piling up everywhere there’s a city going through unexpected rapid changes, from Detroit to San Jose to Haiti to Spain and Greece. This is a warning to be wary of education specialists as reformers, who are actually privatizing exploiters who use public funds to undermine public sector institutions, especially public education.
The individual most representing this group is Paul Vallas, who presents himself as an accomplished turn around professional, who has been the CEO and/or “superintendent” in major cities like Philadelphia and Chicago and in countries like Haiti. He will most likely be out of his current position in Bridgeport, CT because he has been found unqualified for the position. In fact, he has never been qualified for any of the education positions he has held. And the reason is why I’m posting this.
He is the epitome of the grifter, a person who presents himself as a kind of hero who has arrived to solve your problem. Like all grifters, he proceeds with a setup, which, in this education case, involves the securing of vast sums of public funds to underwrite sweetheart contracts. In virtually all of his public appearances he speaks of promises, most of them spelled out specifically, which are carefully promoted as the answers to all the local issues. But when he leaves—always after a fairly short stay, 2 to 3 years—all of the obligations he has put in place compress into financial stress and no substantive progress. Some places, like Chicago and Philadelphia, collapse into ruin.
Here’s what I’m calling out. If Paul Vallas approaches your need in your town or city with his answers, please read The Paul Vallas Hoax before you even consider talking to him. After you have read it and still before you consider talking to him, pursue a serious vetting process. If you need some references, contact me in the comments section, and I’ll be happy to provide you with first hand witnesses to how he operates.
More about the Paul Vallas Hoax can be found in a great piece written this summer for Substance News by George N. Schmidt.
“VALLAS FACTS: The Paul Vallas Hoax’ in the March 2002 Substance exposed every lie, half-truth, and self -serving utteration of Vallas… But it took other places a decade to check out Vallas’s nonsense and try to stop his ‘school reform’ nonsense
[Editor’s Note: Substance had the story first, with all the facts. Paul Vallas was a fraud ten and fifteen years ago, in 1998 or 2002, just as he has been exposed to be in 2013 in Connecticut. But the facts were ignored for more than a decade. And during those years Paul G. Vallas (and at times his so-called “team”) cavorted around the country, pushing the toxic sludge of corporate “school reform” across the USA (and even into other nations). How did it happen? Basically, the majority of reporters (and school board members) simply recycled Vallas’s own versions of reality, carefully selected from a pile of news clippings from Chicago. The contrary evidence was ignored, while members of the Business Roundtable and other plutocrats pushed Vallas on one school district after another.”
Read the rest of the Substance News piece at: http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=4370