Are school administrators bullying and abusing your child over the SBAC testing frenzy?

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There is an extremely serious problem taking place in some school districts across Connecticut and parents, teachers, child advocates and elected officials must act immediately to protect our children from the corporate education reform industry and their lackeys.

With the state-sponsored Common Core SBAC testing scheme now in full-swing throughout the state, parents and guardians in numerous schools districts are reporting that Connecticut public school children continue to be abused by local school administrators, who are following orders from Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Education Commissioner Wentzell and the State Department of Education.

In addition to lying and misleading parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC tests, a disturbing number of school districts are unethically and immorally punishing students who have been opted out of the tests, while some districts are ordering students to “log-in” to the SBAC tests before the schools will honor the parents’ directive that their child is not to participate in the tests.

As previously reported, some school districts are bullying children who have been opted out by forcing them to stay in the testing rooms despite the fact that the SBAC testing regulations clearly and strictly prohibit students who are not taking the test from remaining in the testing locations.

The practice of forcing students to stay in the testing room, despite having been opted out of the SBAC program by their parents, is an ugly strategy to embarrass, humiliate and ostracize children who are inappropriately being required to sit in the testing room for hours while their peers are taking the defective and high-stakes SBAC tests that are designed to unfairly fail a significant number of the state’s children.

School administrators who refuse to place children in an alternative safe and appropriate environment (such as the school library) during the testing period are not only engaging in an unethical form of bullying, but they are violating the State of Connecticut’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) regulations.

The SBAC protocol reads;

 “Students who are not being tested or unauthorized staff or other adults must not be in the room where a test is being administered.”

See:  Smarter Balanced: Summative Assessment Test Administration Manual English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics 2015–2016 Published January 3, 2016 (page 2-4) which notes;

Violation of test security is a serious matter with far-reaching consequences… A breach of test security may be dealt with as a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Teachers, as well as a violation of other pertinent state and federal law and regulation.

Under the law, regulations and SBAC protocol, the Connecticut State Department of Education is required to investigate all such matters and pursue appropriate follow-up action. Any person found to have intentionally breached the security of the test system may be subject to sanctions including, but not limited to, disciplinary action by a local board of education, the revocation of Connecticut teaching certification by the State Board of Education, and civil liability pursuant to federal copyright law.

In addition, superintendents, principals or other school administrators who require or permit students who have been opted out of the SBAC tests, to remain in the testing room risk not only losing their certification to work in Connecticut pursuant to Connecticut State Statute 10-145b(i)(1), but they have violated their duties under Connecticut State regulations that require school administrators to adhere to a Professional Code of Conduct.

As if forcing students who have been opted out to remain in the testing rooms during the testing period wasn’t serious enough, some school districts are actually using an additional technique to make it appear that they are achieving extremely high participation rates.  These school districts have taken the despicable step of telling children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by their parents that they must first sign-in (log-in) to the SBAC test program before the school will honor their parent’s directive that they are not to take the SBAC test.

This strategy is a direct result of the Malloy administration threat that any school district that allows more than 5 percent of their parents to opt out, will lose money – in this case – federal funds that are supposed to be used to provide extra support to the poorest child in the local school system.

IMPORTANT:

If your child or a child that you know is being forced to remain in the testing room during the SBAC testing, you are asked to provide that information, as soon as possible, so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent the continuation of the child abuse and to hold local school officials accountable for their reprehensible actions.

Information about any abusive practices related to the SBAC testing should be sent to Wait, What? via [email protected]or mailed to Wait, What? at PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Bullying and abuse have no place in Connecticut’s public schools.

Please help ensure that those engaged in these abusive tactics are held accountable.

CEA wrong to claim NWEA’s MAP test is an appropriate tool for evaluating teachers.

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In a recent Hartford Courant commentary piece entitled, ‘Smarter Balanced’ Test Wrong Answer For Students, Teachers, Connecticut Education Association President Sheila Cohen correctly explains that,

[The] Smarter Balanced and other high-stakes standardized tests are not useful measures of student success — and were not designed to evaluate teachers. Smarter Balanced is an invalid, unfair and unreliable test that does not measure student growth within a school year. Smarter Balanced does not assist teachers in measuring academic growth, takes away precious instruction time and resources from teaching and learning, and is not developmentally and age-appropriate for students.

Teachers, administrators and parents want an evaluation system that develops and sustains high-quality teaching and provides teachers with more time to collaborate on best practices that result in a better outcome for all students.

But then, in a bizarre move that appears to be yet another attempt to acquiesce to Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s ongoing education reform and anti-teacher agenda, the leader of the CEA claims that although the state should not use the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC test as part of the state’s teacher evaluation program, it is okay to use the NWEA’s MAP standardized test as a teacher evaluation tool.

The CEA’s President notes,

Teachers are evaluated appropriately by measurable results using:

  • Standardized progress monitoring tests like NWEA or STAR.

  • Progress on student performance rubrics tied to external standards in their evaluations.

  • District- and department-designed common assessments

When developed correctly, student performance rubrics and district and department designed common assessments can be useful tools when it comes to evaluating and improving teacher performance.

However, standardized tests like the SBAC or NWEA’s MAP are inherently unfair and inappropriate for use as part of a teacher evaluation system.  Period.  End of Story.

Education Advocate and columnist, Wendy Lecker, addressed this very point when she recently published, Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker.

One of the most damaging practices in education policy, in Connecticut and nationwide, is the misuse of standardized tests for purposes for which they were never designed. Standardized tests are being used to measure things they cannot measure, like school quality and teacher effectiveness, with deleterious results; such as massive school closures, which destabilize children and communities, and the current troubling shortage of students willing to enter the teaching profession.

Connecticut policy makers engage in this irresponsible practice constantly. They jumped on the bandwagon to adopt the SBAC as the statewide accountability test, despite the complete lack of evidence that it the SBAC can support reliable or valid inferences about student performance, let alone school quality or teacher effectiveness. After abandoning the SBAC for 11th graders, our leaders hastily approved the mandated use of the SAT for accountability purposes, despite, again, the absence of evidence that the SAT is either aligned with Connecticut graduation requirements or valid or reliable for use a test to measure student performance, school quality or teacher effectiveness.

Connecticut’s political leaders also blindly adopted the use of standardized tests in teacher evaluations in 2012, despite the evidence, even then, that standardized tests are inappropriate for this use. Since that time, every reputable statistical and educational research organization has repudiated this invalid practice; because a mountain of evidence proves that standardized tests cannot be validly or reliably used to rate teachers.

If only our leaders would examine evidence before adopting a policy, our state would not only save millions of dollars, but it would guide education policy in a direction that is good for students and teachers. Engaging in thoughtful educational policymaking requires a more nuanced understanding of what happens and should happen in schools. It demands an acceptance that in this very human endeavor, objective measures are not always possible and even when they can be applied, they can only measure a fraction what we want schools to accomplish.

As for the claim that the NWEA MAP (“MAP”) is a valid teacher evaluation tool, Wendy Lecker explains,

The MAP test is a standardized tests some districts use to measure progress during the year. In other words, it is used to measure students, not teachers. Some teachers find the MAP test helpful, although a study from the national Institute of Educational Sciences found that the MAP test has no impact on student achievement.

There is only one study on the use of the MAP for teacher evaluation. An urban Arizona district interested in using the MAP for teacher evaluation engaged a well-known expert, Professor Audrey Amrein Beardsley, and her team, to determine whether this use of the MAP would be valid. Unlike Connecticut officials, these Arizona district officials wanted to be sure of its validity before imposing it on their teachers. Thus, they requested the study before beginning implementation.

The MAP test is closely aligned with the Arizona state test. However, despite the close alignment, the study revealed that the MAP test is unreliable for use in teacher evaluation. Consequently, the district decided against this use of the MAP.

The study’s authors stressed that measuring “growth” is not as simple as policy makers think it is; and “it is certainly unwise for states or school districts to simply take haphazard or commonsense approaches to measure growth. While tempting, this is professionally and (as evidenced in this study) empirically misguided.”

The truth is that the NWEA’s MAP standardized test is just as inappropriate a tool to evaluate teachers as is the SBAC and the unions that represent teachers have a fundamental obligation to ensure that public policy makers understand what are and what are not valid techniques for determining how well an individual teacher is doing in the classroom.

The CEA’s latest move to condemn the SBAC but endorse the MAP is an uncomfortable reminder that, over the past six years, teachers and other public employees have watched as their union leaders have engaged in an almost schizophrenic approach when it comes to dealing with Governor Malloy’s bully, while standing up for their members.

Wanting to be perceived as “insiders” for the purpose of “getting into the rooms of power,” some union leaders have consistently dismissed or tried to explain away Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman’s ongoing anti-teacher, anti-public employee agenda.

On the other hand, recognizing that their membership is getting angrier and angrier and that the Malloy/Wyman agenda is undermining public education, public services and is translating into public employee layoffs, some of these same unions have taken to running television advertisements urging citizens to stand up for the public servants who educate our children, provide critically important support for those in need and ensure that government programs are available to the people of Connecticut.

The CEA’s initial approach to the teacher evaluation issue was a case study in the strategy of trying to get-along to go-along.  But, after failing to successfully fight off Malloy’s inappropriate and unfair teacher evaluation initiative, the union changed course this past January.

As the January 5, 2016 Wait What? post,  4 years late[r] – The Connecticut Education Association may finally be standing up against Malloy and Wyman on their teacher evaluation disaster, reported,

According to a press advisory issued earlier today, the Connecticut Education Association will hold a press conference at 11am at the Legislative Office Building on Thursday, January 7, 2016 to call on Governor Dannel Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly to “join with the majority of states in the U.S. that have replaced the federally-sponsored SBAC or PARCC tests with better, more authentic and effective assessment programs.”

If the announcement is as impressive as suggested, it would mean that the leadership of Connecticut’s teacher unions have finally moved 180 degrees from the position they held on January 25, 2012 when the CEA and AFT joined with the other members of Governor Malloy’s Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) to approve the so-called “teacher evaluation framework” that inappropriately and unfairly mandates that student’s standardized test scores be a major factor in the teacher evaluation process.

In addition to reversing their position on the SBAC test, the CEA and AFT-CT have been working extremely hard to get the Connecticut General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 380 which would prohibit the state from using the results from the Connecticut’s Mastery Testing program in the state’s teacher evaluation program – a proposal that Malloy and his education reform allies strongly oppose.

And yet, as the CEA seriously – and finally – engages on this vital issue, along comes the claim that the NWEA MAP test is a valid mechanism for evaluating teachers – a claim that may please Governor Malloy and his anti-teacher friends but is absolutely and completely out of line with the academic evidence and good public policy.

Connecticut can and should have a strong and effective teacher evaluation system, but using standardized test results to evaluate teachers has no place in such a system.

It does a tremendous disservice for the CEA to suggest otherwise.

Hey Connecticut – Nothing to worry about as the ‘Catastrophic Structural Failure’ crisis grows

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Today’s CT Newsjunkie headline reads – 2016 Budget Is Back In The Red – $141.1M

In his monthly letter to state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, [Malloy’s budget chief Ben] Barnes said the state’s revenues have slipped again and the budget is experiencing a $141.1 million shortfall. That’s just three weeks after the General Assembly closed a $220 million budget gap.

The additional $141 million deficit that the Malloy administration is now admitting to comes on top of the $220 million deficit that was announced a couple of months ago, which came on top of the approximately $600 million in deficits that had been previously announced since July 1, 2015.

The appalling truth is that with about 70 days left in the fiscal year, the state budget approved by the Connecticut General and signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy, last spring, was out of balance by over $1 billion.

Should it come as a surprise that the state budget that Malloy signed and deemed to be balanced was actually underfunded?

Hardly….

Last June, on the day the Connecticut General Assembly adopted this year’s state budget, the Wait, What? post read The Train Wreck of the Democrats’ State Budget and a few weeks later came an update entitled, CT’s Legislative Democrats set to make a bad budget worse.

Yet, speaking about the glory of the newly adopted state budget, the President of the Connecticut State Senate called it, “one of the best in his 35 years in the general assembly.”

And from Dannel “No New Taxes” Malloy came what may have been the quote of the year as Malloy exclaimed,

“A brighter tomorrow will start with this budget today. This agreement will help Connecticut now and in the long-run — it helps transform our transportation infrastructure as we aim for a best-in-class system. It supports our schools, supports the middle class, and supports vital programs for those who need it most. Most importantly, it helps us build a Connecticut for the long-term, making our state an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Yet despite those bizarre pronouncements, Malloy and his political operatives continue to pretend that it is Malloy, himself, who is the voice of fiscal responsibility.

Note that along with today’s announcement about the growing deficit, Malloy issued a statement saying;

“The question is no longer whether we’re in a new economic reality, it’s what we’re going to do about it.”

Wait, What?

Malloy is actually claiming that he is the one prepared to deal with the “new economic reality” in a responsible manner?

It was only 11 weeks ago when the February 3, 2016 Wait, What? headline reported, Malloy presents a state budget plan that would make hip hop artist B.o.B. proud.

Flanked by Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, his “policy-partner,” Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy lectured a joint session of the Connecticut General Assembly today about the importance of being fiscally responsible.

It was a grand theatrical performance that would make hip hop artist B.o.B. proud.

Less than two weeks ago, singer and music producer B.o.B informed the world that despite what we have been told, the World is Flat!

Like Governor Dannel Malloy, the “all-knowing” musician laid down the “truth” about the flatness of the Earth explaining;

“No matter how high in elevation you are… the horizon is always eye level … sorry cadets… I didn’t wanna believe it either.”

“A lot of people are turned off by the phrase ‘flat earth’ … but there’s no way u can see all the evidence and not know… grow up.”

“I question the international laws that prevent you from exploring Antarctica and the North Pole… what’s there to hide? …I’m going up against the greatest liars in history … you’ve been tremendously deceived.”

[…]

Earlier today, doing his best to channel B.o.B. into the historic chamber of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Governor Malloy took off on a fantastic ride of revisionist history in which he blamed everyone but himself for the fiscal disaster that is dragging Connecticut into the muck.

[…]

Malloy’s rhetoric about honest budgeting was only eclipsed in today’s speech by his comments regarding his record when it comes to Connecticut’s long term debt obligations.

Unconstrained by the truth or his own record in dealing with Connecticut’s failure to properly fund its pension and post-employment benefit programs, Malloy pontificated;

“Now, it has fallen upon us to fix it. After decades of neglect, we are finally paying our pension obligations every year. I think we all know that must continue.”

This from a guy who just a few months ago proposed kicking the can so far down the road that we’d shift more than $8 billion in pension liabilities onto the backs of Connecticut’s children and grandchildren.

And lest we forget, it is Malloy who has gone crazy with the state’s credit card, borrowing money to pay for various pet projects including his massive corporate welfare program.

As for his immediate commitment to making even deeper cuts to state programs, Malloy’s approach is probably best reflected by his proposal to cut funding for dental care for poor children and his plan to save $1 million by “reducing the burial benefit for indigent people from$1,400 to $1.000.”  That last one was actually something Malloy proposed last year, but legislators reviewed the issue and trashed the plan.

Here is the reality.

What we are witnessing is a “Catastrophic Structural Failure” of leadership and as Connecticut’s fiscal house burns to the ground, Malloy, Wyman and their team continue to function as if the whole situation is nothing more than a political game in which the contest is to see who can come up with the best sounding rhetoric and political soundbites.

To them it may all be a game – a joke – but the damage from their actions is raining down on the people of Connecticut who are suffering and will continue to suffer under state leaders who have completely lost their ability to decipher reality, let alone act on it.

If Malloy’s determination to coddle the rich and deny the fact that additional tax revenue will be needed to ensure a fair, balanced and appropriate state budget, is not challenged and reversed, Connecticut will continue its parachute-less plunge toward destruction.

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation (By Poetic Justice)

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Educator, poet and fellow education blogger, Poetic Justice, addresses the insidious and damaging impact of the corporate education reform industry’s notion that standardized test results should be a part of a fair, appropriate and effective teacher evaluation system.

In Connecticut, Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and the “education reformers” have devoted themselves to ensuring that the children, parents, teachers and public schools of the Constitution State are saddled with an absurd and damaging teacher evaluation system that utilizes the Common Core SBAC testing scam results to evaluate teachers.

More recently, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) has proposed swapping the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC test results with the equally inappropriate MAP test which would produce a system equally unfair and discriminatory.  Public Education Advocate, Wendy Lecker, addressed the problems associated with the MAP in Connecticut – A failed application of standardized tests by Wendy Lecker.

The only reasonable approach is a teacher evaluation system that actually appropriates measures and evaluates the impact teachers are having.  Such models exist.

Here Poetic Justice lays out the situation in a way that even Malloy/Wyman and the education reformers could not misunderstand…

A Lone Teacher Talks Back: An Educator on the Impact of Teacher Evaluation (By Poetic Justice)

As far as Poetic Justice is concerned, all metrics need to be eliminated from the evaluation process. This may be a radical thought in this age of teaching reform, but it is not a radical idea to those who are pure educators.

This is what a valid teacher evaluation checklist would look like if I were in charge of my own building. This is what my own personal self-evaluation looks like:

  1. Are the children safe?
    2. Are the children the focus of the classroom?
    3. Does the teacher recognize and respond to the individual needs, strengths, and giftings in the class?
    4. Is the teacher helping, not harming her students?
    5. Is each student regarded as more than a data point?
    6. Is the teacher connecting content to the life experiences of his students and their collective situations?
    7. Is the teacher sensitive to the backgrounds and cultures of her students?
    8. Is the teacher striving for synthesis of content into her students’ learning schema?
    9. Is the teacher doing much more than just delivering prescribed content to a prescribed time table?
    10. Is the teacher using her own teacher created lessons and materials?
    11. Is the teacher respecting and cherishing student voice?
    12. Are writing and reading considered a joy by the teacher and by the students?
    13. Is there present a pedagogy based on love, joy, and compassion?
    14. Is the teacher actively growing in her own professional development?
    15. Is the teacher sharing and contributing to her colleagues’ successful practice?
    16. Is the teacher aware of her craft as an art as well as a science?
    17. Are ALL assessments used to help the student and to inform instruction?
    18. Is there a holistic dimension to assessment taking into account cognitive as well as affective domains of learning?
    19. Is creativity regarded by both students and teacher as the highest form of learning?
    20 Are the children safe?

This checklist is in direct opposition to the findings at this weekend’s Network for Public Education convention report and is in opposition to current evaluation systems. Poetic Justice is not saying all data is irrelevant; I am saying that data is only one small part of a teacher’s toolkit.

I left a career in the business sector expressly because I wanted to help children. I wanted to devote my life to the welfare of humanity not to some corporation’s bottom line. Today’s approach to teaching and learning is far more dehumanizing than even the approaches I experienced in business. At least in the business sector, the customer was always considered and any harm to that customer could result in litigation.

My plea is for those in educational power positions, to please consider the harm being done to children and teachers when only metrics are considered important.

 

teachers are most than tests scores

Please join a FaceBook page that Poetic Justice administers with the Walking Man – Dr. Jesse Turner.

FB page is located at – Teachers Are More than Test Scores.

 

Malloy and Wyman collect public employee political donations – then stab state employees in the back – go figure.

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The wave of state employee layoffs that are taking place in Connecticut is a disturbing reminder about how Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman approach electoral politics.

Having promised their support for public services, public employees and collective bargaining, the two neo-liberal politicians had their hands out during their last campaign to collect literally millions of dollars in donations from public sector employees.

However, once safely ensconced back into office for a second term, the dynamic duo have proposed, promoted and implemented the deepest cuts in state history to public services, a hatchet job that includes a new strategy of laying off significant numbers state employees.

It has been thirteen years since Connecticut has seen a governor laying off large numbers of state employees.  That time, disgraced former Governor John Rowland’s disastrous and illegal 2003 purge of state employees ended up costing Connecticut taxpayers about $100 million in back pay and penalties.

As the Hartford Courant reported in January 2016, State Begins Paying $100M Tab For Rowland Layoffs, Including Estimated $15M to Law Firm,

“State officials will spend most of 2016 paying an estimated $100 million tab for last year’s settlement of a long-running federal lawsuit by unions over Gov. John G. Rowland’s 2003 layoff of more than 2,000 state workers. The taxpayer money has already started flowing.”

David Golub, the attorney representing state employee unions and the state employees impacted by that round of layoffs is collecting a tidy $15 million to 17 million in scarce public funds for winning the case.

Now Golub is the lawyer working to help the Connecticut Democratic Party derail an investigation by the Connecticut State Elections Enforcement Commission into the $6 million plus slush fund that the Democratic Party used to – illegally – (allegedly) – support Malloy and Wyman’s  2014 re-election campaign.

At issue in the Malloy/Democratic Party case is the fact that in addition to collecting their $6.2 million public finance subsidy to pay for their re-election, the Malloy/Wyman political operation knowingly and intentionally coordinated and benefited from the activities of two other political committee accounts, each of which raised millions and millions of dollars.

One entity was created by the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and other account, the one that appears to have violated Connecticut law, was run through the Connecticut Democratic Party.

Claiming to be “friends” of unions, public employees and public services, Malloy and Wyman played a role (it seems) in helping to raise money from public employee unions into the coffers of the two extra political committees.  Those union funds came directly from the pockets of public employees.

Now, of course, state employees and others who are paid with public funds are learning the true cost of putting their trust in charlatans and deceivers.

Connecticut Forward was the name of the Super-PAC that was set up by the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) to support Malloy’s 2014 campaign.  (Malloy is now Chairman of the Washington D.C. based group.)

As initially reported by Wait, What? in 2014 and then re-examined in an article published less than two months ago and entitled, Democrats Malloy and Wyman stab state employees in the back – again – and again, Malloy’s political operation and that Super-PAC relied heavily on the generosity of the public employee unions.

When they were running for re-election, Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman were all smiles as they accepted the political endorsements from Connecticut’s state employee unions and the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

When Malloy and Wyman wanted the unions to fork over money to help pay for their re-election campaign, union leaders stepped up big time.

Using hard-earned money collected from their members, AFSCME dumped $1.2 million into the Super PAC that was set up to support Malloy and Wyman’s effort to spend four more years in office.  The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) added $600,000 and SEIU donated $550,000 to the same political committee.

During the same period, Malloy and Wyman’s political fortunes were further enhanced thanks to more than $160,000 in union donations to the special account that was set up by the Democratic State Central Committee and used to pay for Malloy’s direct mail program.  Those contributions included $10,000 from AFT, $10,000 from NEA, $5,850 from SEIU, $5,000 from AFSCME and $1,800 from CEIU.

Even the Working Families Party got into the act, moving $25,000 in union funds to the Connecticut Forward Super-PAC.

Now, seventeen months later, although Malloy and Wyman knew that difficult times were ahead and chose to remain silent, public services are being destroyed and state employees are being laid off.

And to those who would dismiss the underlying issue by claiming Malloy is simply taking the financial actions that are needed to balance the state budget, one need only remember that another major source of the campaign cash for the Malloy/Wyman re-election effort was the charter school industry and their pro-Common Core, pro-Common Core testing and anti-teacher education reform allies.

In Malloy’s world of “shared sacrifice,” will proposing the deepest cuts in state history to public schools, Malloy has actually proposed adding to the $100 million a year that is already being handed over to the privately owned and operated charter schools, all while he remains committed to forcing Connecticut’s children to suffer under the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scam and then using the results of that flawed testing system to evaluated teachers.

Finally, while Malloy and Wyman make incredible cuts to public services, they remain committed to an agenda of coddling the rich and opposing any reasonable efforts to make the wealthy pay their fair share.

As Malloy and Wyman institute policies that push even more of the tax burden onto local property taxpayers, Connecticut is already in a situation in which the poor pay about 12 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle class pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes, yet the state’s wealthiest only pay about 5.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

The legacy is becoming very clear.  Cut vital services, layoff public employees, make Connecticut’s regressive tax system even more unfair and continue to make a mockery of the promises and pledges of their  2014 re-election campaign.

New York’s “New Visions for Public Schools” is coming to save Connecticut

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Brace yourselves … Yet another New York corporate education reform organization has decided to open up shop in Connecticut.

What is that line about robbing banks because that is where the money is…?

In this case, the group is calling itself “Connecticut RISE School Partnerships” but it is really a New York based organization that is known as New Visions for Public Schools.

This latest Connecticut education reform savior is hiring staff in order to “partner” with the East Hartford, Meriden and New Haven public schools systems.

What the “partnership” is or even how the deal to “partner” with an out-of-state entity was cut hasn’t been revealed, but a series of Freedom of Information requests have been sent to the various school districts in an attempt to find out exactly what is going on.

Some of the funding for the endeavor appears to be coming from the Ray Dalio Family Foundation.  Ray Dalio is the billionaire who Governor Dannel Malloy showered with scarce taxpayer funds in a failed effort to help subsidize Dalio’s desire to move his company, Bridgewater Associates – the world’s largest hedge fund from Westport to Stamford.  In the end, Dalio decided to stay in Westport, for the time being, although he did keep in the range of $52 million in public money to cover some of his costs.  (See Yes, you heard right…CT taxpayers give $115 million to Bridgewater, world’s biggest hedge fund, Slam-Dunk! Touch-down! Goal!!!! Taxpayers come through for American’s highest paid CEO and To Hell with Connecticut’s Middle Class – Someone needs to subsidize the Billionaires.)

While details are scarce, New Visions for Public Schools’ website suggests that students, parents, teacher and public schools in East Hartford, Meriden and New Haven will benefit from “partnering” with them because the New York entity is;

“Dedicated to ensuring that all New York City public school students, regardless of race or economic class, have access to a high-quality education that prepares them for the rigors of college and the workforce. Further, we are committed to sharing innovative tools, strategies and lessons learned in New Visions schools with others in New York and throughout the country to prove that meaningful change is achievable at scale and success is possible for every child.”

[As a side note – never trust an education group that uses the words rigor or grit.]

New Visions for Public Schools further reports that the core of their work is to,

“Promote data-driven, peer-to-peer learning to support continuous improvement.”

The entity’s Board of Trustees includes Founder and Co-Chairman Richard Beattie who is the Chairman of Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., Chairman and Partner of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, a large New York law firm,  and a leading member of the Harley Davidson Board of Directors.

According to Bloomberg News, Beattle, “concentrates on mergers and acquisitions; leveraged buyouts; and corporate law and finance. He has counseled numerous boards and non-management directors on governance issues, investigations and litigation involving corporate officers and other crisis situations. He has also participated in some of the larger and more complex financial transactions, including the merger of America Online and Time Warner, the merger of WellPoint Health Networks with Anthem Inc. and the merger of J.P. Morgan Chase with Bank One.”

New Visions for Public Schools’ other Co-Chairman is Roger C. Altman, the founder and executive chairman of Evercore. (He is the same Roger Altman who served as President Carter’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury and President Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of the Treasury until he resigned amid the “Whitewater controversy”).

Until recently the President of New Visons for Public Schools was Robert Hughes, who has since left to become the Director of K-12 Strategy for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In addition to the money from the Ray Dalio Family Foundation, major supporters of New Visions for Public Schools include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and a long list of other charter school industry and corporate education reform foundations, companies and donors.

The job postings associated with New Visions for Public Schools and their Connecticut RISE School Partnerships report that the organization will;

  • Collaborate with RISE district teams comprised of the district superintendent, school supervisor, district data administrator, high school principal, high school teacher, and other school and district staff.
  • Cultivate strong partnerships with RISE schools and districts, building strong relationships with teachers and leaders.
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of district strengths, priorities, and growth areas.
  • Provide embedded and consultative support in RISE schools and districts aligned to the Network common aim.
  • Support each school and district on its unique path to advance student outcomes.

Claiming particular expertise in “Data-Driven Innovation,” East Hartford, Meriden and New Haven should prepare to “benefit” from a program that will;

  • Support districts in designing and implementing local RISE Innovation Grants, piloting unique local initiatives designed to advance the Network’s common aim.
  • Facilitate quarterly Learning and Innovation Cycles, convening RISE teams to discuss Innovation Grant undertakings, review progress data, and refine/strengthen implementation.
  • Support the roll-out of new collaboratively-develop RISE data dashboards, providing school and district leaders with access to real-time and user-friendly data visualizations.
  • Build staff capacity around the use of data to systematically drive decision-making.
  • Focus intently on creating school and district systems, structures, and protocols to allow for regular data-driven learning cycles.
  • Support districts in implementing data tools and strategic data check-ins around college and career readiness indicators.

In addition to a the RISE Program Coordinator and the RISE School Partnership Manager, Connecticut’s newest corporate education reform industry group will also be adding a RISE Director Of Data Strategy, whose job will be to “play an integral role designing and leading RISE’s data strategy, overseeing research, development, and capacity-building functions.”

Check back for more information about New Visions for Public Schools’ Connecticut RISE initiative as it becomes available.

DFER NEWS: Adam Goldfarb, former Chief of Staff to Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, lands COO post at Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)

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Having become a great weight around Democrat Dannel Malloy’s desire to serve a second term as Connecticut’s governor, in the run-up to Connecticut’s 2014 gubernatorial election, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, announced that he was leaving his post in search of new opportunities.  (See Wait, What? post –Commissioner Pryor and entourage are the biggest threat to Malloy’s Re-election…)

Pryor quickly announced that he was headed east to become Commerce Secretary for his friend, the newly elected Governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo.  Pryor, Raimondo and her husband, hedgefund executive Andy Moffit, all attended Yale together.  Moffitt was roommates with Cory Booker and Pryor ended up serving as Booker’s economic adviser for five years until joining the Malloy administration as Commissioner of Education in 2011.

While at Yale, Pryor co-founded Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school management company that owns and operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

As Governor Malloy’s point person on education, Pryor led the effort to undermine Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and public schools.

It was Governor Malloy, with the help of Pryor and a series of no-bid contracts with out-of-state corporate education reform industry consultants, which produced the most anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-public education bill of any Democratic governor in the country.

In addition to the millions of dollars that Commissioner Pryor wasted on out-of-state consultants and his successful effort to divert hundreds of millions in scarce taxpayer funds to Connecticut’s charter school industry, another one of Pryor’s controversial actions was to hire his close personal friend and former Newark aide, Adam Goldfarb, to serve as his chief of staff.  (See Wait, What? post –IMPORTANT UPDATE: Oh, it’s good to be King, or at least Commissioner of Education.)

In order to get around the State of Connecticut’s hiring rules, Pryor actually hired Goldfarb under one job classification and then immediately bumped up his salary and made him chief of staff.

Goldfarb’s credentials?

Like Pryor, Goldfarb went to Yale.

Like Pryor, Goldfarb worked on economic development issues in Newark for then mayor Cory Booker.

Like Pryor, Goldfarb had no real public education experience.

And like Pryor, Goldfarb was a big fan of charter schools despite their unwillingness to provide equal educational opportunities to students who require special educational services, those who aren’t proficient in the English Language or those who fail to adhere to the abusive and degrading harsh disciplinary policies that are the staple of charter school operations.

In Goldfarb’s case, he has served as the Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of People’s Prep Charter School in New Jersey since the privately owned, but publicly funded charter school opened. (See Wait, What? post – What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?)

While Goldfarb’s boss, Stefan Pryor, has spent the last year hiring even more out-of-state consultants and plunging Rhode Island’s governor into one controversy after another (Check back soon for more about that), Goldfarb has been treading water as a consultant for Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies and America Achieves project.

However, although no official announcement has yet been made, it appears that Adam Goldfarb has recently landed the job of Chief Operating Officer for the education reform and charter school advocacy group known as Democrats for Education Reform (DFER).

DFER is the corporate and elite funded pro-education entity that serves as the political wing of Education Reform Now and its sister organization, Education Reform Now Advocacy.

DFER is used as a political action committee and a “dark-money” bundling group that has poured millions of dollars into political campaigns on behalf of candidates who support the Common Core, the Common Core testing scam and the privatization of public educations through the massive expansion of charter schools.

A darling of the education reform industry, DFER’s new National President, Shavar Jeffries, joined DFER after a stunning defeat against Newark councilman and community activist, Ras Baraka, for mayor of Newark when Booker became a United States Senator.

Jeffries has now brought in Adam Goldfarb to so serve as DFER’s Chief Operating Officer.

As for DFER, The Center for Media & Democracy’s Executive Director, Lisa Graves, recently published a investigative piece entitled, How DFER Leaders Channel Out-of-State Dark Money, in which she wrote;

DFER is actually the more well known PAC arm of Education Reform Now, Inc. (ERN), a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, and Education Reform Now Advocacy, Inc. (ERNA), a 501(c)(4) social welfare group. Their acronym not only sounds like the word “earn,” but also it has the backing of some really huge earners.

DFER co-founder (and founder of the T2 Partners hedge fund) Whitney Tilson explained the hedge funders interest in education noting that “Hedge funds are always looking for ways to turn a small amount of capital into a large amount of capital.”

The Board of Directors for ERN consists almost entirely of Wall Streeters who made their fortunes through financial groups and hedge funds, such as Sessa Capital, Gotham Capital, Covey Capital, Charter Bridge Capital, Maverick Capital, Cubist Systematic Strategies, and Sanford C. Bernstein.

As the New York Times reported: DFER’s supporters have included “the founders of funds like Anchorage Capital Partners, with $8 billion under management; Greenlight Capital, with $6.8 billion; and Pershing Square Capital Management, with $5.5 billion.”

However, ERN and ERNA do not disclose who its major donors are and how much those big donors give to fund its operations and ambitions.

It is known, though, that FOX‘s Rupert Murdoch gave at least $1 million to ERN. Murdoch has expressed his desire to get in on education “reforms,” stating “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone….”

The most recent federal tax filings of ERN/ERNA show that it had more than $12 million available to push education reform ($7.4 million for ERN and $5 million for ERNA) in 2013. Its non-profit filings from the most recent major election year, the 2014 mid-terms, or last year are not available.

What is known from the 2013 is filings is that, in that year, ERNA disclosed that it spent $1.7 million in political expenditures, nearly all of which went to DFER. These funds were used for expenditures, like mass mailings or ads supporting particular politicians but that were “independent” and not to be coordinated with the candidates’ campaigns.

ERN/ERNA’s leader Joe Williams has been paid a for-profit like salary as its executive, with $398,500 in total annual compensation in 2013. He’s also listed as “Executive Director Emeritus” for DFER and on DFER’s board. Williams stepped down from his staff position at DFER in 2015 and also became a director at the Walton Education Coalition that year. That’s Walton as in Walmart’s Walton family.

Because nonprofits like ERN/ERNA do not have to disclose their major donors to the public, even when ERNA is active in supporting electoral activities the public is left in the dark about which hedge funder is actually helping to fund state and local ads and mailers during the election.

Even though privately held corporations and hedge funders do not have to disclose their donations to operations like ERN/ERNA, a CEO’s charitable foundations does have to disclose to whom they give grants.

That’s how it is known that the Walton family, of Walmart fame or infamy, has backed such efforts. In 2011, for example, ERN/ERNA received $1.1 million from the Walton Family Foundation. The total amount from all such CEO-controlled foundations given to ERN/ERNA to date is not known.

As Matthew Fleischer noted in the Frying Pan News (reprinted by the Huffington Post) that hedge funder Tilson has followed the Waltons’ lead: “in a 2010 documentary, A Right Denied, Tilson suggested that DFER was created because of Walmart patriarch John Walton’s support of vouchers and “school choice.'”

It has been investigative journalists who have helped expose the billionaire network behind ERN/ERNA/DFER, despite the opacity on the surface, as noted by George Joseph in the Nation:

“[A]ccording to Steven Brill in his book Class Warfare, around this time [in 2010] the hedge-fund alliance for education reform really began to take off. That April, for instance, Education Reform Now’s Joe Williams and Bradley Tusk schmoozed over drinks with Paul Tudor Jones II and other hedge-fund billionaires at Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone’s Five Avenue apartment, where they planned a successful campaign to secretly spend millions through a 501(c)(4) political action fund and win the charter cap increase [in New York]. As with Families for Excellent Schools’ mostly secret financing today, Brill notes that Education Reform Now’s donations never became public, and that in May a room full of eager billionaires was able to push the legislature to authorize increased charter-school expansion.”

(The Nation‘s exposé on ERN/ERNA/DFER in New York includes emails and a slide deck about the billionaires and foundations behind such efforts that were leaked to the magazine.)

Despite or perhaps because of this reality, the DFER arm in a state where ads are run merely discloses to the state authority that it received contributions from ERNA, not the hedge funders.

So, the ERN/ERNA/DFER operation is like a shell game when it comes to the public being able to pierce through the layers of nonprofits to find the name of a particular billionaire or uber-rich hedge funder whose money is propping up a particular electoral candidate being backed by DFER.

Similarly, DFER in the states has been known to partner with other groups that have similarly murky or occluded funding sources.

Most recently, DFER and its related entities have been particularly involved in campaigns and political activities aimed at supporting politicians committed to privatizing public education and promoting charter schools in California, Colorado, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York and in other targeted states and cities.

NYC based Charter School Lobby attacks CT State Senator Len Fasano for his support of public education

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Families for Excellent Schools is the corporate funded, New York based, charter school industry lobbying group that bused in students and parents from as far away as New York City and Boston, last year, to attend a rally in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s effort to divert even more taxpayer money to Connecticut’s privately owned and operated charter schools.

Over the past year and a half, Families for Excellent Schools  – using a variety of aliases – has spent nearly $1.5 million in a record-breaking effort to lobby and persuade Connecticut legislators to support Governor Dannel Malloy’s unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory “education reform” initiatives.

Now, in a dirty and underhanded maneuver, the outside lobby group is targeting Republican State Senator Len Fasano.  His crime?  Unlike Malloy, Fasano actually supports Connecticut’s real public schools and Connecticut’s public school teachers.

The truth is that Governor Malloy’s 2016 budget proposal includes plans to cut Connecticut’s public schools by approximately $58 million while increasing state aid to his pet-project, the privately owned and operated charter schools.

Thanks to Malloy’s education reform effort, Connecticut taxpayers already subsidize charter school companies to the tune of more than $100 million a year and while Malloy laments the state budget deficit, his budget plan is to actually give charter school even more taxpayer funds even though these companies refuse to educate their fair share of students who need special education services or those who require extra help when it comes to learning the English Language.

State Senator Len Fasano has been calling Malloy out on his irresponsible budget plan.

Fasano has made it clear that public schools should be treated more fairly and that charter schools should not be exempt from the efforts to balance the budget.

Fasano has also been one of the most outspoken leaders in opposition to the Common Core SBAC testing frenzy and is a leading co-sponsor of the legislation prohibiting Common Core SBAC test results from being used as part of Malloy’s ill-conceived and unfair teacher evaluation program.

Paid to promote the Common Core, the Common Core testing and more state aid for charter schools, Fasano’s pro-public education stance is just too much for these charter lobbyists to handle and so they are targeting him.

Of course, beyond the immediate attack on State Senator Fasano is the question of who is really behind these tactics?

According to the official reports filed with the State Ethics Commission, New York’s Families for Excellent Schools has become a major source of income for Malloy’s “former” top aides.

Andrew Doba, who served as Governor Malloy’s Press Secretary before leaving the state payroll to take a PR position with a New York company, has already collected $78,000 from this charter school lobbying front and it appears that he is now collecting $8,500 a month to support Malloy’s education reform proposals and attack Malloy’s opponents.

In addition, since setting up shop in Connecticut, Families for Excellent Schools has handed Roy Occhiogrosso’s company at least $232,350.  Occhiogrosso is Malloy’s alter-ego and worked as the governor’s chief adviser during Malloy’s first term in office.  The political operative is widely credited with writing Malloy’s 2012 anti-teacher speeches in which Malloy proposed doing away with teacher tenure and observed that he didn’t mind having teachers teach to the test as long as test scores went up.

More money for charter schools…

More money for Malloy’s closest advisers….

Next time you see the Families for Excellent Schools ad attacking Len Fasano… 

You’ll know who is behind the effort.

FASANO ATTACK

Legislators – Make Malloy veto the only fair, honest and effective way to balance the State Budget.

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After ordering massive budget cuts to a variety of programs that provide critically needed support for some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens and making record breaking cuts to Connecticut’s public schools and colleges, this year’s Connecticut State Budget is still $220 million in deficit.

Although Governor Dannel Malloy claimed that the State Budget he signed into law last summer was balanced and that he had succeeded in putting Connecticut’s fiscal house in order, in truth, that budget missed the mark by nearly $1 billion dollars.

Over the last few month Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly have instituted deep and sweeping cuts that undermine some of Connecticut’s most vital social, health and education programs and services.

To make matters worse, Malloy is now withholding funds that Connecticut’s hospitals and non-profit providers of community services need to ensure that hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents get the essential services they need.

With things getting worse by the day, Democratic leaders in the Connecticut legislature are now saying that they are poised to make even deeper cuts to programs as they flail around in an effort to balance the budget.

See:  Legislative Leaders, Malloy Continue Negotiations Over 2016 Budget Deficit (CT Newsjunkie), Senate Democratic leaders confident deficit-mitigation cuts will pass (CT Mirror), Legislature To Vote Tuesday In Attempt To Close Budget Deficit (Courant)

But there is a simple, honest and effective way for legislators to balance this year’s state budget and it is a solution that will allow them to restore some of the funding for the most important state programs and services.

However, Governor Malloy doesn’t like the idea so Democratic legislators are simply pretending that the best solution for the people of Connecticut doesn’t even exist.

It is time for Connecticut legislators to dismiss Malloy’s bullying.  He is a governor, not a king!  Their duty is to their constituents, not to the power hungry governor.

The best, most honest and most effective solution is for the members of the Connecticut State Senate and State House of Representatives to do the right thing and pass a budget deficit mitigation package that requires the super wealthy to pay their fair share.

If Governor Malloy’s decides that his priority is to coddle the rich while the rest of Connecticut suffers, let him veto the bill and face the political consequences.

The solution is extremely simple.

As the non-partisan research group Connecticut Voices for Children have reported;

  • Connecticut’s poor families pay about 12.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes
  • Connecticut’s middle income families pay about 10 percent of their income in state and local taxes
  • And Connecticut’s wealthiest residents pay about 5.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes.

As a direct result of Governor Malloy’s ongoing effort to protect the rich, Connecticut’s wealthy pay FAR less than they would if they lived in Massachusetts, New York or New Jersey..

The harsh, but unspoken, reality is that Connecticut’s middle class and working families are subsidizing Connecticut’s wealthy.

It is a policy that is unfair and needs to stop.

Connecticut’s public officials can eliminate the budget deficit by simply making Connecticut’s tax system fairer.

Depending on how it is actually structured, increasing the tax rates on wealthy resident’s capital gains or personal income would result in $250 million to $400 million in additional state revenue this year.

Instead of cutting vital programs and shifting even more of the burden onto local property tax payers, Connecticut elected officials should dismiss Malloy’s rhetoric and adopt a budget solution that is fair, honest and effective.

The question is, will elected officials do the right thing for their constituents or join Malloy by aligning themselves with the state’s wealthy.

 

State and Local officials abusing students and parents on SBAC test will be held accountable

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When it comes to the Common Core SBAC testing mania, a number of parents from across the state – along with students and teachers – have identified a significant number of school districts that are engaged in immoral, unethical and quite likely illegal efforts to undermine parental rights and bully and abuse children who have been opted out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory SBAC testing scheme.

  • Some districts have implemented campaigns to lie and mislead parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to refuse to have their children participate in the SBAC tests.
  • Some districts are bullying children who have been opted out by forcing them to stay in the testing rooms despite the fact that the SBAC testing regulations prohibit students who are not taking the test from being in the room where students are taking the SBAC test.
  • Some districts have taken the despicable step of telling children who have been opted out of the SBAC testing by their parents that they must first sign-in to the test program before the school will honor their parent’s directive that they are not to take the SBAC test.  In an attempt to meet the demands of the Malloy administration, this tactic is being used by some school districts to artificially inflate their SBAC participation rates, although it leaves the unsuspecting child with a score of zero on the SBAC test, a label of failure that could haunt them for years to come.
  • And finally, some school districts are using more than one of this incredibly outrageous strategies.

In various venues, including here at Wait, What?, requests have been made to Governor Dannel Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Education Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell and members of the Connecticut General Assembly to step up and put an end to the unconscionable abuse of children and parents that is taking place in some Connecticut school districts.

However, these so-called “public servants” have refused to take any action to protect Connecticut’s public school children and their families.

Their utter failure to do what is right has left parents and public school advocates with no choice but to take steps to hold state and local school officials accountable for their abusive strategies and tactics.

Starting next week, school districts that are engaged in these immoral and unethical activities will be publicly identified and complaints will be filed with the appropriate federal, state and local authorities.

Parental concerns about how the SBAC tests are being implemented has been raised over and over again.  For example, the following articles, all published here at Wait, What? since the beginning of the year, clearly lay out the issues.

More reports of state sponsored abuse of children and parents in relation to Common Core SBAC testing

Malloy and Wyman turn their backs on Connecticut students, parents and teachers – What will legislators do?

More shocking and disturbing reports of Connecticut school officials misleading parents and bullying children on Common Core SBAC testing!

Students, Parents, Teachers – Are SBAC testing opt-out requests being handled appropriately in your school?

ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing

STOP Malloy/Wyman from punishing students, parents, teachers and taxpayers on testing opt out!

As Malloy claims ELA Performance Task not useful his lies and deception about the Common Core SBAC test catch up to him

Malloy’s Strategy on Common Core SBAC Test – Look busy and make sh*t up

Malloy proposes plan to punish your neighbors if you opt your child out of the Common Core SBAC testing fiasco

Malloy-Wyman Administration ramp-up attack on parents who opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC testing fiasco

Some CT superintendents continue to violate parents’ civil rights and their own Code of Responsibility

LOOK OUT!  If parents opt their children out, the Malloy administration will cut funding for poor children

Common Core testing frenzy leads to taxpayer funded SBAC Test Prep

CT Regional School District #7 succumbs to Common Core testing frenzy, throws their children under the bus.

IMPORTANT ALERT – Students, Parents, Teachers are being bullied about opting out of testing madness

My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.

Malloy and Wyman – Montclair, N.J. public officials respect parents – why won’t you?

Malloy/Wyman moving forward with threats to punish schools districts that respect parents’ “opt-out” rights

ALERT – Malloy/Wyman attack on parents, students, teachers, public schools (and the “out-out” movement) is a national disgrace

Parents, students and teachers who have violations to report are asked to send the information to [email protected] as soon as possible.

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