A CT superintendent speaks: Madison’s Thomas Scarice and the Power of truth

What happens when a superintendent of schools stands up and speaks out!

For more than two years many Connecticut teachers, public school advocates, parents of public school students and others have been warning about the dangers that will result from Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiative.

When public school teachers recently gathered in large groups at events sponsored by their teacher unions, legislators started to take notice.

When West Hartford Teach Elizabeth Natale wrote her Hartford Courant commentary piece entitled, “Why I Want To Give Up Teaching,”  the fundamental message went “viral” and even Governor Malloy, the one who introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-charter school, anti-public education reform bill of any Democratic Governor in the country was forced to lower his arrogance a bit and come down from on  high to pretend to address teacher’s concerns.

In a letter that is equally as powerful, the Superintendent of Schools in Madison, Connecticut, Thomas Scarice met with local officials and state legislators in his area and read them a letter he had written about the environment surrounding public education in Connecticut.

Not only is Thomas Scarice’s letter the most profound and powerful statement we have heard yet from a Connecticut Superintendent of Schools but it is one of the most forceful documents that any school administrator in the nation has written.

The nation’s leading public school champion, Diane Ravitch, has already named Superintendent Thomas Scarice one of the country’s pro-public education champions.

The follow letter reiterates why he earned that title and why Connecticut’s Governor, Education Commissioner, State Board of Education, State Legislators and State Representatives would do well to read the letter, read it again, and then act to save Connecticut’s public schools before it is too late.

The Letter from Superintendent Thomas Scarice to his Connecticut State Legislators:

As a superintendent of schools it is incumbent upon me to ground my work with my local board of education. My work must be grounded in two areas: in accurately framing problems to solve, and most importantly, in proposing solutions grounded in evidence, research, and legitimate literature to support a particular direction. Any other approach would be irresponsible and I’m certain my board would reject such shortcuts and hold me accountable.

In our profession, we have the fortune of volumes of literature and research on our practices. We have evidence to guide our decision making to make responsible decisions in solving our problems of practice. This is not unlike the field of medicine or engineering. To ignore this evidence, in my estimation, is irresponsible.

Legislators across the state have heard from, and will continue to hear loudly from, educators about what is referred to as education reforms. Webster defines “reform” as “a method to change into an improved condition.” I believe that legislators will continue to hear from the thousands of educators across the state because the reforms, in that sense, are not resulting in an improved condition. In fact, a case can be made that the conditions have worsened.

To be fair, the reforms did, in fact, shine a light on the role of evaluation in raising the performance of our workforce. There were cases of a dereliction of duty in the evaluation of professional staff. This is unacceptable and was not the norm for all school districts.

However, I would like to make the case that these reforms will not result in improved conditions since they are not grounded in research, the evidence that supports professional decision-making, like a doctor or engineer. It is simply a matter of substance. The evidence is clear in schools across the state. It is not working.

We have spent the better part of the last 12 years with a test-based accountability movement that has not led to better results or better conditions for children. What it has led to is a general malaise among our profession, one that has accepted a narrowing of the curriculum, a teaching to the test mentality, and a poorly constructed redefinition of what a good education is. Today, a good education is narrowly defined as good test scores. What it has led to is a culture of compliance in our schools.

We have doubled-down on the failed practices of No Child Left Behind. Not only do we subscribe to a test and punish mentality for school districts, we have now drilled that mentality down to the individual teacher level.

We have an opportunity to listen to the teachers, administrators, parents, and even the students, to make the necessary course corrections. We know what is coming. We’ve seen it happen in other states. We can easily look at the literature and predict how this story ends. New York, Kentucky and so forth, these states are about one year ahead of Connecticut. Why would we think it will end any differently for our state? We can take action to prevent the inevitable.

We have an opportunity. You as legislators have an opportunity. Our students and communities are counting on us.

I am pleased to see that the Governor has asserted his authority to address this deeply rooted problem. But we cannot stop there.

I ask the following:

1. Do not be lulled into solutions that promote “delay.” Although the problem is being framed as an issue of implementation timelines and volume, I contend that this is much more about substance than delays. Revisit the substance of these reforms, particularly the rigidity of the teacher evaluation guidelines.

2. As you revisit the substance, demand the evidence and research that grounds the reforms, just as a board of education would demand of a superintendent. You will find, as I have, that the current reforms are simply not grounded in research. As legislators, demand the evidence, particularly the literature that illustrates the damaging effects of high stakes test scores in teacher evaluations. Demand the evidence that demonstrates that this approach is valid and will withstand legal scrutiny. Demanding evidence is how every local board of education holds their administrators accountable.

3. Build on the Governor’s first steps and create even greater flexibility for local districts to innovate and create. This is 2014…standardizing our work across all schools is not the answer. That’s the factory / assembly line mentality that got public schools into this mess. We need a diversity of thought, similar to a “crowd sourcing” approach, if we are to solve the problems of the 21st century. Above all, commit to the principle that “one size fits all” does not work. We would never accept that from individual teachers in their work with students, why should we accept “one size fits all” for very different school districts across the state? There are indeed alternative approaches that fit the context and needs of individual districts. I would be happy to provide with you with our example. You, as legislators, can create the space for innovation to thrive. Promote innovation, not mere compliance.

4. Revisit the No Child Left Behind waiver that was filed with the U. S. Department of Education. This is consistently presented as the trump card in any discussion involving modifications to the reform package passed a couple of years ago. We’ve been told that we cannot make changes because of promises made to the federal government. Was there a lower threshold for compliance with the No Child Left Behind waiver? Can we take a more aggressive approach for our state and not be dictated to by the federal government to this degree? This resonates at the local level and ought to at least be considered.

5. Finally, do not be a cynic, but be a skeptic about the common core. How can this be done?

  • Demand the evidence to support whether or not the standards are age-appropriate for our youngest learners. Demand the input of early childhood experts like the 500+ nationally recognized early childhood professionals who signed a joint statement expressing “grave concerns” about the K-3 standards. Or perhaps seek input right here in Connecticut from the early childhood experts at the Geselle Institute in New Haven. 
  • Demand the evidence that supports that every child should master the same benchmarks every year when we know that all children develop at different rates. 
  • Demand an accurate accounting of the current and, more importantly, future costs of implementing the common core and the new Smarter Balanced (SBAC) testing system. 
  • Demand the evidence that supports coupling the common core to unproven tests. In just weeks, many students will sit for these new tests. They will serve as subjects to “test out the test.” It is quite possible that you will hear even more from parents after the tests are administered. Be proactive and seek these answers in advance of the inevitable questions you will be asked.

I want to close by stating that I personally have between eighteen to twenty more years to serve in this state and I look at these problems in a very long-term sense. What can we do now, not for this year or next, but in the long-term to be the shining example for the rest of the country that Connecticut’s public education system once was considered? I’m committed to this work and I will continue that commitment for nearly two more decades.

I ask you to seize this opportunity.

Thank you.


Thomas R. Scarice
Superintendent of Schools, Madison Connecticut
10 Campus Drive
PO Box 71
Madison, CT. 06443


Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public school advocates  needs more public school superintendents to follow Thomas Scarice’s action and step up and speak out.  The very future of public education in Connecticut and the nation depends on their courage.

Malloy says “stay the course” on Common Core and Teacher Evaluation (after election)

The Hartford Courant has what could very well be the clearest portrayal of Governor Malloy’s real intent when it comes to his corporate education reform industry initiatives.

With the latest flurry of press conferences, letters and meetings behind him, the Hartford Courant notes;

“After the meeting the governor emphasized that he is not backing off his support for the teacher evaluation system or the Common Core. It’s ‘not that either one isn’t the right thing to do,” Malloy said, “but drinking out of a fire hose is not easy for everybody.'”

So there you go teachers, parents, administrators and public school advocates – your problem is that you simply aren’t adept at “drinking out of a fire hose.”

Of course, this is the same Governor Malloy who said that all teachers had to do was show up for school for four years and you got tenure.

And the same Governor Malloy who said he didn’t mind teaching to the test as long as the test scores went up.

So damn the icebergs, full steam ahead.

Malloy has made it consistently clear that  despite all the problems, he remains committed to the entire Common Core, more standardized testing, anti-teacher, pro-charter school agenda… but we needn’t worry because implementation on some of the elements of his agenda won’t proceed until after he makes it past the next election.

It is time to remember that old adage: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

You can read the Hartford Courant article here: http://touch.courant.com/#section/2224/article/p2p-79094849/

And speaking of Common Core and “Ed Reform”… CT teacher’s editorial goes viral

Go into any teacher’s lounge in Connecticut…

Heck, go into any teacher’s lounge in the United States…

And you are likely to find a copy of Elizabeth Natale’s commentary piece entitled, “Why I Want To Give Up Teaching” that was recently published in the Hartford Courant

Elizabeth Natale is an English and language arts teacher at Sedgwick Middle School in West Hartford and her opinion piece about the on-going attack on teaching, teachers and public schools not only touched a nerve in every teacher and public school advocate but was a clear and concise portrayal of how the corporate education reform industry is undermining what is best about American’s public education system.

The piece was particularly poignant for Connecticut teachers because Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy introduced and pushed through the most anti-teacher, anti-union, pro-corporate education reform industry legislation of any Democratic governor in the nation.

And since Malloy’s “education reform” legislation passed, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, with the help of high cost, out-of-state consultants and new State Department of Education employees with little or no teaching experience have been implementing policies that are damaging students and teachers, while undermining the right of parents throughout the state.

Despite having one of the best public education systems in the country, where even the most challenged cohorts of students – such as English Language Learners and student who need special education services- do better than students in many states, the corporate education reform industry has spent a record $6 million and counting lobby on behalf of Malloy’s efforts to privatize public education and demean teachers.

Connecticut’s teachers have been stunned and deeply offended by the actions that have been taken Connecticut’s governor, his commissioner of education and that support their warped education reform agenda.

As teacher Elizabeth Natale wrote;

“Unfortunately, government attempts to improve education are stripping the joy out of teaching and doing nothing to help children. The Common Core standards require teachers to march lockstep in arming students with ‘21st-century skills.’ In English, emphasis on technology and nonfiction reading makes it more important for students to prepare an electronic presentation on how to make a paper airplane than to learn about moral dilemmas from Natalie Babbitt’s beloved novel ‘Tuck Everlasting.’”

And as she sadly concludes;

“Teaching is the most difficult — but most rewarding — work I have ever done. It is, however, art, not science. A student’s learning will never be measured by any test, and I do not believe the current trend in education will lead to adults better prepared for the workforce, or to better citizens. For the sake of students, our legislators must reach this same conclusion before good teachers give up the profession — and the children — they love.”

Elizabeth Natale is certainly not the first teacher to articulate these concerns, but her Hartford Courant opinion piece arrived at the very moment that more and more teachers and parents and public school advocates are coming to understand the motives of the corporate education reform industry and the damage that they, with the help of politicians like Governor Malloy, are doing to our public schools.

For the few that haven’t read it, you can read Elizabeth Natalie’s piece at: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-natale-teacher-ready-to-quit-over-common-cor-20140117,0,6264603.story

Hide your children – Arne Duncan is coming to Connecticut Tuesday

According to the Hartford Courant, “The governor’s office confirms that Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, will visit Hartford’s University High School on Tuesday afternoon at 1:30. Duncan will speak on college accessibility and affordability. According to Duncan’s office the event will include U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and others.”

Considering Duncan et. al. are coming to speak about college affordability, choosing Hartford’s University High School of Science and Engineering, rather than one of Connecticut’s public colleges or universities is an interesting choice.

Considering Governor Malloy has instituted the deepest budget cuts in Connecticut history to the state’s public institutions of higher education, cuts that have led to significant tuition increases, it could be that the Governor’s handlers are worried that they won’t receive a warm welcome.

[Back in the fall of 2010 I attended a University of Connecticut Young Democrats meeting with candidate Dan Malloy in which he took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and promised to put an end to Governor Rell’s approach of shifting costs from the state to students and their families.  What a sad commentary that Malloy has done far more to increase college costs for Connecticut’s families than Rell ever did].

In any case, Malloy and Duncan are not appearing at one of Connecticut’s public colleges or universities, they are speaking at a Hartford public school.

As so-called education reformers perhaps Malloy and Duncan are more comfortable sticking to the corporate education reform environment that has become Hartford’s School System.

Hartford’s University High School of Science and Engineering is a prime example of a place where the hard work and real achievement of teachers and students have been overshadowed by the political spin that is the centerpiece of the corporate education reform industry.

According to University High School’s most recent STRATEGIC SCHOOL PROFILE filed with the Connecticut State Department of Education the school gets 51 percent of students from 35 towns surrounding Hartford and 49 percent of its students from Hartford.

Of the student population, 30 percent is White, 34 percent African American, 23 percent Hispanic and 13 percent from “other ethnicities.”

Although it is interesting to note that the school claims that only 2.8 percent of its students are English Language Learners (meaning that they are not proficient in the English Language).  The number is unbelievably low considering the significant number of students from Hispanic and other ethnic backgrounds.

Furthermore, the school reports that only 7.5 percent of its students need special education services, far fewer than the percentages in Hartford or the 34 sending towns.

And then the numbers become even more suspect.

According to the Strategic School Profile, University High School of Science and Engineering graduated its fourth class with a “100% graduation rate.”

The school adds that “100% of graduating seniors applied to and were accepted into a 2 or 4 year college. 90% of graduates are attending a four-year college or university; 8% are attending two-year colleges; and 2% post graduate year.”

However, the school also states that 185 students qualified as truant meaning that 48% of the entire student body was absent for an extremely extended period of time.  Not that truancy necessarily prevents a 100% graduation rate and 100% college attendance rate but the statistic is rather odd.

In addition, another troubling statistic is that only 10.6 percent of the juniors and seniors at Hartford’s University High School were enrolled in college credit courses of any type.  Compare that number to Buckley High where 14.6 percent of the juniors and seniors were taking college credit courses.

Of course, both schools do significantly better than Capital Prep where absolutely no students were enrolled in college credit courses.

Over the last few years it has become painfully clear that Secretary Duncan, Governor Malloy and the Obama and Malloy administrations are addicted to policies that are “data driven.”

And playing with the numbers to ensure they match the policy goals is not unheard of.

So, with tuition skyrocketing at Connecticut’s public colleges and universities, increases that are a direct result of Governor Malloy’s budget cuts, it will be very interesting (and entertaining) to hear the spin that will be coming from Duncan and Malloy on Tuesday afternoon.

Connecticut need not look far for model on improving academic performance (by Wendy Lecker)

Hearst media commentator and fellow pro-public education advocate Wendy Lecker has another great commentary piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate.

Wendy writes:

“High-quality preschool is one of the best investments society can make in our children. It has been proven to improve academic outcomes and reduce the costly incidence of special education and grade retention. It increases high school graduation and reduces contact with the criminal justice system.

While Connecticut’s leaders have paid lip service to the value of high-quality preschool, they have not made a serious effort to address the inequity of preschool access in our state. For example, in the 2011-2012 school year, 98.3 percent of Westport’s kindergarten students attended preschool, nursery school or a Headstart program, compared with only 65 percent of neighboring Bridgeport’s kindergartners.

Last month, the federal government rejected the Malloy Administration‘s application for Race to the Top funds for expanding Connecticut’s preschool because Connecticut did “not present a High Quality Plan” to serve high-needs children.

The truth is, Connecticut would not have had to look very far to find a successful model of high-quality preschool serving high-needs children.

New Jersey’s Abbott preschool program has been recognized nationally as a stellar example of high-quality preschool.

In 1998, in New Jersey’s school funding case, called “Abbott,” the state’s highest court ruled that preschool is an essential component of a constitutionally adequate education and mandated universal full-day preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds in the 31 highest poverty districts in the state.

New Jersey then built a universal preschool program that resulted in strong and persistent gains for children in the Abbott districts. Children who attended the Abbott preschool outperformed those who did not in oral language, conceptual knowledge, math and literacy. Abbott preschool graduates were half as likely to be retained in a grade as those who did not; and children who attended Abbott preschool were much less likely to require special education services.

The way in which New Jersey achieved this system of high-quality preschool provides a lesson beyond just preschool. It is a model for school reform in general.

Following the court’s mandates, New Jersey was required to provide preschool programs that conformed to specific quality standards. In 1999, there was a patchwork of private and public providers already operating in these districts. Many were of sub-standard quality. On the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS), a research-based assessment of preschool program quality, less than 15 percent were rated good to excellent and nearly one in four was less than minimal quality. By 2007-08, the vast majority of classrooms were good to excellent, with no “poor” ratings.

New Jersey built a high-quality, diverse delivery preschool system by investing in existing community-based and Headstart programs, and expanding school-based preschool. The state paid to send preschool teachers back to school for additional certification and boosted teacher pay. It developed operational standards that enabled communities to serve the particular needs of their districts’ children; and developmentally appropriate curricula. The state provided technical assistance to providers, for example, in managing finances. Moreover, it invested in facilities and wrap-around services.

New Jersey did not close poor quality preschools. It did not engage in wholesale firing and replacement of staff. It did not impose outside managers unfamiliar with the communities. It did not force a “cookie-cutter” model that ignored the specific needs of each district. It did not replace existing schools with ones that exclude the neediest children.

In other words, New Jersey did not use the “turnaround” methods of reform favored by today’s school reformers.

Mass school closings are a disturbing trend in financially distressed districts across the nation. The closings disproportionately impact African-American and Latino students, seldom improving academic performance. School closures have a destabilizing effect on the entire community, as the schools closed were often anchors of the neighborhood. Often, the new replacement schools fail to serve the district’s most vulnerable children. When they do not close a school, reformers favor replacing a school’s staff, another ineffective strategy. In fact, it was recently revealed that the federal government has poured millions of dollars into “turnaround” efforts like these, which replace and displace rather than rebuild, with very little evidence of a successful return on its investment.

Connecticut’s education policies have been diverted down the wrong road. It is time to put Connecticut back on track. New Jersey’s Abbott program provides an alternate model; one that can be successful not only for preschool but also for K-12 education. While corporate reformers push slash-and-burn techniques that ignore and even destroy local institutions, the Abbott program proves that cultivation of community resources reaps long-lasting benefits — for children and the neighborhoods.”

You can read the full piece: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-N-J-could-offer-a-model-for-Conn-5132350.php

Malloy calls his “educational reform” initiative “part of this grand experiment.”

In the United States you can’t take medicine unless it has been fully tested and determined to be safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Heck, you can’t even sell or buy genetically modified salmon without it going through a comprehensive independent assessment process.

But for reasons that are extremely hard to comprehend public officials seem perfectly satisfied to upend our public education system and force local schools districts to adopt a one-size fits all corporate education reform industry agenda that is expensive and appears to be extremely ineffective, at best.

In 2012 Governor Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education reform agenda of any Democratic governor in the nation.

Two years later, Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and a cadre of out-of-state consultants, along with people like Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski, are pushing full steam ahead with their plans to force Connecticut’s school districts to implement very expensive standardized testing and evaluation systems, along with “turnaround programs,” that are untested, unproven and divert scarce resources away from the very instruction programs that are working with the vast majority of students.

Instead of systematically testing targeted strategies and then implementing those that work, Malloy, Pryor and their entourage are experimenting with Connecticut’s students and forcing Connecticut’s taxpayers to pick up the cost.

At yesterday’s grand opening of the Connecticut River Academy Magnet School in East Hartford, Governor Malloy had a moment of incredible honestly or uttered what could only be described as a true Freudian slip.

As reported in the Hartford Courant, Malloy, speaking to a crowd of students, staff and community leaders at the school’s opening told the students that they are “part of this grand experiment that we have underway in the state of Connecticut…”

Malloy added, “This is our gamble, our bet, our investment in your future, that is saying that we want Connecticut to be as successful as it ever was, in fact we want it to be more successful.”

Malloy said, when it comes to Connecticut, “In fact we want it to be more successful…”

Truer words have never been spoken.

But if our government leaders actually meant what they said, and said what they meant, they’d be engaged in a very different form of “education reform,” a reform that was not based on a corporate education reform industry agenda but one that was based on strategies that were properly assessed and deemed appropriate for the students of our state.

As the saying goes, “All students can learn and succeed, but not all on the same day, in the same way.”

We do the right thing when it comes to medicine; we even do it for salmon.

Our children deserve no less.

Education Blogger Mercedes Schneider warns: Beware of Data Sharingcheerleaders Offering Webinars

Fellow pro-public education blogger Mercedes Schneider is one of the most powerful and important voices in the anti-corporate education reform industry movement.  Her research is extraordinarily thorough and her writing is amazing.

As proof, the nation’s leading voice on behalf of public education, Diane Ravitch, links to Mercedes’ work on a regular basis.  If you don’t subscribe to Mercedes’ blog you can do so by going to http://deutsch29.wordpress.com

In one of her latest blogs Mercedes Schneider continues to confront one of the most important problems with the corporate education reform industry….the effort to data mine and share information about our children.

Mercedes Schneider writes:

Perhaps the most sobering component of the privatization push is its unprecedented demand for data collection (data “mining”) on American students. Data mining is not just an American issue. However, on the American front, two education activists have been at the forefront of the fight against this mammoth student data collection: Louisiana’s Jason France (here’s a great example of his writing on the subject) and New York’s Leonie Haimson (her is her testimony on student data/privacy issues in a September 2013 New York city council meeting).

(For those unfamiliar with the data mining issue, see this concise yet thorough summary on the WhatIsCommonCore blog.)

US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes that there is “power” in data for “school reform”.

Indeed there is. The issue isn’t whether there is “power” in data collection and storage, and its potential sharing. There certainly is power. That is precisely why the public is wary of the federal push to develop statewide, longitudinal data systems.

The question is whether state and federal governments (and the privatizing interests nurtured by state and federal governments) should have control of over 400 data points per student.

As is true with any attempt to hand over the public to privatizing interests (i.e., the heart of corporate reform), the potential for exploitation abounds is this so-called “data storing/ data sharing” endeavor.

You can read the full blog at: http://deutsch29.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/beware-of-data-sharing-cheerleaders-offering-webinars/

Bridgeport pro-public education uprising makes top 10 list of 2013

AlterNet is “an award-winning news magazine and online community that creates original journalism and amplifies the best of hundreds of other independent media sources.”

Alternet reporter Owen Davis produced a list of the “10 Big Wins For Public Education in 2013.”

The pro-public education uprising in Bridgeport that included the defeat of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s proposal do to away with a democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by him, the election of a pro-public education board of education opposed to the corporate education reform industry agenda being pushed by Governor Malloy, Mayor Finch and Paul Vallas and Vallas’ resignation as head of Bridgeport’s school earned the effort the #4 spot on the top ten list of public education victories in 2013.

Owen Davis wrote:

“If what’s past is truly prologue, there’s a good chance 2013 will be remembered as the year the free-market education reform movement crested and began to subside. After a decade of gathering momentum, reform politics began to founder in the face of communities fighting for equitable and progressive public education. Within the year’s first weeks, a historic test boycott was underway, civil rights advocates confronted Arne Duncan on school closings, and thousands were marching in Texas to roll back reforms.

Perhaps we should have sensed this coming: the Chicago Teachers Union strike in the fall of 2012 foreshadowed the education struggles that would take center stage in 2013. In addition to fair contract provisions, they called for a new course for public schools: well-rounded curriculum, fewer mandated tests, more nurses and social workers, an end to racially discriminatory disciplinary policies, and early childhood education, among other demands.

The CTU’s chief victory lay in galvanizing public education advocates across the country around a vision for public education that took full form in 2013. At the same time, the year saw reform bulwarks like Teach for America and the Common Core standards suffer unprecedented shocks.”

You can read his top 10 list of public education victories here: 10 Big Wins for Public Education.

As for Bridgeport, Owens writes:

4. Bridgeport Reclaims Board of Education

In 2012, the state of Connecticut dissolved the democratically elected, occasionally dysfunctional Bridgeport school board and reformed it according to their whims and wiles. The new board happened to tap reform luminary Paul Vallas as superintendent, whose swath of successes included presiding over the charterization of New Orleans, leaving Philadelphia with a $73 million budget hole, and launching Chicago’s free-market reform model in the late ’90s.

The state courts soon invalidated the appointed board and allowed elections to resume. In 2012 Bridgeport residents shot down a handsomely funded mayoral-control referendum that would have relieved them of the burden of electing their own school board. In 2013, they voted in a slate of progressive Working Families Party candidates in a sharp rebuke to the reforms that had blown in from afar.

As is his wont, Vallas is already making for the door after his perfunctory and disruptive stint. As he joins Illinois governor Pat Quinn on the campaign trail, Bridgeport looks ready to steer itself in a new educational direction.

In response to the AlterNet list Diane Ravitch noted, “The tide is turning. Corporate reform is not collapsing, not yet, but it is running into a firestorm of resistance. Rough sledding ahead for the corporate reformers as the public wakes up and parents organize to stop the theft of their public schools and the joy of learning.”

Here is to many more pro-public education victories in 2014.

Numbers Don’t Lie, Unless Someone Wants Them To (By Barth Keck)

“Never in my career as a high school English teacher — as an instructor of reading and writing, as a purveyor of literature — have I been asked to collect more “student data” and create more “spreadsheets” than I have in the past several years.”  – Barth Keck

Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who also teaches courses in journalism and media literacy at Haddam-Killingworth High School.

You can find Barth Keck’s commentary pieces at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/.

His latest piece is entitled “Numbers Don’t Lie, Unless Someone Wants Them To.”

Keck writes;

“But science is where public education is hanging its hat right now, from the “metrics” applied to teacher evaluations to the data collected from standardized tests. And why not? Science turns a frustratingly nebulous concept — educational progress — into a black-and-white, numbers-don’t-lie picture.

If only it were so easy.

Call me a cynic, but numbers can lie. Or, at least, they can be manipulated by people who want to prove a point.

Take the recent results of the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which compares 15-year-olds in 65 global locations by their ability in math, science, and reading skills.

“Three years ago, I came here with a special report benchmarking the U.S. against some of the best performing and rapidly improving education systems. Most of them have pulled further ahead,” said Andreas Schleicher of the Department of Education. “The math results of top-performer Shanghai are now two-and-a-half school years ahead even of those in Massachusetts — itself a leader within the U.S.”

So there you have it — a scientifically-calibrated test proves that American students continue to fall behind schoolchildren from the rest of the world. A closer look, however, reveals a murkier picture.

“Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the school system in Shanghai is not equitable and the students tested are children of the elite because they are the ones allowed to attend municipal schools [due to] restrictions such as those that keep many migrant children out. ‘The Shanghai scores frankly to me are difficult to interpret,’ Loveless said. ‘They are almost meaningless’.”

While the corporate education reformers would dismiss Barth Keck since he is “only a school teacher,” those who care about our public schools and the students, parents, teachers and taxpayers who make up our education community would do well to read his pieces.

Barth Keck’s previous commentary piece on education policy can be read at CTNewsjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_despite_extra_coaching_from_the_bleachers_wins_still_hard_to_come_by_/

Connecticut Democratic Party Chair fails to explain – Why did the Party divert 40k to fight pro-public education Democrats in Bridgeport Primary?

Moments ago, Democratic State Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo sent out another email to party activists seeking donations for the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee. DiNardo asks, “Can you be a part of this and chip in $5 today?

But DiNardo and the Democratic Party have yet to address the important issue that has been raised again and again.

This past fall, Governor Malloy, Nancy DiNardo and the Democratic State Central Committee misdirected $40,000 from the Democratic Party’s coffers to pay for almost all the expenses of Mayor Bill Finch’s pro-corporate education reform slate of candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education.

The endorsed slate lost badly to a pro-public education slate of candidates.

The Democratic challenge slate went on to win the election and with the help of the Working Families Party members unseated Finch’s campaign treasurer, Reverend Kenneth Moales, Jr. last night as the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, replacing the disgraced pastor with a pro-public education advocate named Sauda Baraka.

Instead of staying out of this critically important Democratic Primary, the Connecticut Democratic State Central Committee used State Party funds to pay for more than 90% of the money spent to support the losing, corporate education reform oriented slate.

Since Malloy was elected governor, hundreds of Connecticut residents have donated to the Connecticut Democratic Party because they believed Governor Malloy, Lieutenant Governor Wyman and Democratic Chair Nancy DiNardo when they wrote letters and emails explaining that the donations would be used to defeat Republican candidates.

To this day it still isn’t clear whether the 72 members of the Democratic State Central Committee were properly informed or even approved of the decision to re-direct $40,000 in scarce campaign resources to a slate of candidates that was committed to undermining Connecticut’s teachers, teacher unions and the children and parents of Bridgeport.

It is truly the height of arrogance that Malloy and the Democratic Party leadership continue to send out fundraising requests yet fail to explain how it is possible that $40,000 in donations to the Connecticut Democratic Party were not used to beat Republicans but were used to try and beat pro-education Democrats.

Governor Malloy and Chairman DiNardo owe the Democrats of Connecticut an explanation and they deserve it now.

Just read today’s email and ask yourself – is it clear that they money being raised my be used to fight fellow pro-public education Democrats?

The email reads;

Dear Jonathan

We need to finish the year strong.

Can you be a part of this and chip in $5 today?

Thank you for your help,


P.S.: Can you forward this email to 3 friends who might also be interested in contributing?

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jonathan Harris <[email protected]>
Date: Fri, Dec 6, 2013 at 3:46 PM
Subject: Another damn CDP fundraising email?
To: Nancy DiNardo <[email protected]>

Dear Nancy,

Here at the Connecticut Democratic Party, like at most political organizations, we ask for money because we need it. We need the money to create the great graphics you love to share on Facebook and Twitter, to provide trainings on how to use the latest software and to engage voters.

So I’m going to ask you for money today. And probably next week. Just like every other political entity who has managed to get your email address – because it’s that damn important.

Can you please contribute $5 today?

It won’t make the emails stop, but it will make an impact on Connecticut’s future. In 2012, if President Obama had not raised more than $1 billion, we might very well be asking you to contribute so we can battle against the agenda of President Mitt Romney.

In the coming months, our congressmen and congresswomen are going to have a fight on their hands. And I am not about to let them fight alone.

Do you live in the 5th congressional district? Contribute $5. Do you live in the 3rd? Contribute $3.

I’m proud of the work that my team has done and the money we have raised — because I know that it is going to help us beat the Tea Party Republicans and their multimillion-dollar super PACs in 2014.


Jonathan A. Harris
Executive Director