Special Ed. Irony: CT Gov. Malloy and Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher by Nancy Bailey

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Nancy Bailey is an educator, author, expert on children with emotional and behavioral disabilities and autism and a fellow education blogger.  In her latest commentary piece, Special Ed. Irony: CT Gov. Malloy and Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher, she explores the recent controversial school funding decision in Connecticut.

Nancy Bailey writes;

In every state we see an erasing of services for students with disabilities. Consider how Texas managed to omit an appropriate education for students with special needs My guess is that in whatever state you live, special education is in trouble.

How many children will not get the schooling they need to realize their dreams? How many parents will not get the support required to assist their children the best way possible?

In Connecticut, Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher has ruled in a decades old school funding case, and while he recognized problems that exist when it comes to school funding and poverty, he slammed public schools badly. The expected changes to schooling and for teachers is worrisome.

But the Judge’s statement about instruction of the profoundly disabled was especially egregious. His statement calling the funding of special education “irrational,” should raise concerns for everyone.

In discussing Connecticut, not long after I started tweeting (Twitter is still a bit of a mystery to me), CT Gov. Dannel P. Malloy started following me on Twitter. He is seen as a school reformer. He supports charter schools and other troubling reforms in that state. Here, Judge Moukawsher’s decision is discussed with Gov. Malloy’s input.

I am sorry the Governor is not a bigger proponent of public schools and professional teachers. And I still don’t know why he followed me on Twitter–maybe because I write about special ed. issues–maybe it was a mistake. But I did learn some interesting things about the Governor.

Gov. Malloy has spoken and written poignantly about the difficulties he faced as a child and how he overcame dyslexia. He still uses all kinds of adaptations to adjust in his work. It is inspirational to read about the challenges he overcame to be successful.

Also, while Gov. Malloy may support a lot of troubling school reforms, the State of Connecticut seems to have looked out for its special needs school population and early childhood education. He has attempted to fairly fund special education in that state. For this he should receive credit. Although, some argue more funding is required.

But I wonder how, in such a state with such a governor, can Judge Moukawsher say what he did about special education. One would think because of Gov. Malloy, all of Connecticut’s citizens would stand in unanimous support and champion the needs of its special needs population.

Here is what Judge Moukawsher said about special education. It comes from Jonathan Pelto’s blog (more can be found elsewhere too–see below). Jonathan is a champion for students in Connecticut (and the country) and is running as a Green Party candidate for Congress. He also notes that Connecticut has done pretty well when it comes to special ed.

Here are the words of Judge Moukawsher.

Yet school officials never consider the possibility that the education appropriate for some students may be extremely limited because they are too profoundly disabled to get any benefit from an elementary or secondary school education….It is about whether schools can decide in an education plan for a covered child that the child has a minimal or no chance for education, and therefore the school should not make expensive, extensive, and ultimately pro-forma efforts..

That statement is appalling!

At this point in time, no one should have to argue that schooling is important for all children. Americans should realize that, after years of legislation and special education advocacy, every child no matter the disability, can learn and deserves the right to a free public education!

I’d like to sit down with the Judge and describe the two years I spent teaching students with profound disabilities. It was there I learned the power of public schooling for everyone.

It doesn’t matter what level a child might be at when a teacher meets them. With appropriate understanding, every child can learn new skills which will help them lead a quality life. Schooling is critical for a child with profound disabilities.

I’d like to remind the Judge that by teaching children with profound disabilities they can usually live at home with their families, where they are not only treated like first class citizens—which they are—but where they are thoroughly enjoyed and loved as family members.

The Judge might visit these families who treasure their children for the beauty found within. Parents and siblings often adapt to different life, but they can find greater meaning than most people will ever know.

The Judge should ask how living could be made easier for these children and their families through great public schooling. Anything less is un-American.

Judge Moukawsher’s words are especially dangerous, because when you start judging who is and who is not fit to receive education services, sooner or later other disability groups will be pushed out too. Before you know it, students with dyslexia and reading problems will be denied schooling. And you never know what futures will be obliterated—maybe someone who could have one day become a Governor.


Here are additional links concerning this important decision. I may add more.

Altimari, Daniela. “Superior Court Judge Raises Profile With Divisive Education Reform Ruling.” Hartford Courant. Sept. 19,2016. HERE.

Reid, Macklin. “Superior Court Judge Raises Profile With Divisive Education Reform Ruling.” Hartford Courant. Sept. 19, 2016. HERE.

To read and comment on Nancy Bailey’s complete article go to: http://nancyebailey.com/2016/09/20/special-ed-irony-ct-gov-malloy-and-judge-thomas-g-moukawsher/

Here are some additional links to media coverage of the case;


CT Mirror

9/7/16 – Judge strikes down state education aid choices as ‘irrational’

9/7/16 – Ruling may end ‘hold harmless’ principle in CT budget politics

9/12/16 – For David Rosen, 11 years in court just a beginning in school case (New Haven Independent)

9/13/16 – Malloy, a plaintiff and then a defendant, hedges on school appeal

9/15/16 Jepsen files appeal, says Moukawsher school ruling ‘legally unsupported’

Hartford Courant

9/7/16 – Court Orders Far-Reaching Reforms for Public Schools and   CCJEF Ruling Press Conference

9/8/16 – Legislature Must Draft A New Deal For CT Education

9/9/16 – Lawmakers Scramble To Craft Response To Judge’s Education Ruling

9/15/16 State Appeals Controversial Education Overhaul Decision

CT Newsjunkie

9/7/16 Judge Orders State To Make Sweeping Changes To Education Funding, Policies

9/15/16 State Appeals Education Ruling to Supreme Court

Stamford Advocate

9/11/16 – Wendy Lecker: Will equity without adequacy be enough to help Connecticut’s neediest children?

Connecticut Post

9/7/16 Judge says state’s school funding formula is irrational

9/9/16 –After ruling on school finding, officials ponder next step

9/15/16 – State to appeal decision on school funding

New York Times

9/7/16 Judge, Citing Inequality, Orders Connecticut to Overhaul Its School System

9/11/16 – In Connecticut, a Wealth Gap Divides Neighboring Schools

9/12/16 – A Holistic Ruling on Broken Schools

Links to the actual decision

Hartford Courant – http://www.courant.com/education/hc-read-ccjef-v-rell-20160907-htmlstory.html

CT Mirror – https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3100630-School-Funding-Decision.html

Judicial Department – http://jud.ct.gov/CCJEFvRell.pdf


Related Statements:

CEA CEA Leaders Respond to CCJEF v. Rell Decision

AFT – Comments on Court Decision in Historic State Education Funding Case


Educators 4 Excellence – Educators 4 Excellence-Connecticut reacts to ruling of CCJEF v. Rell lawsuit



Commentary pieces:

Education Ruling: OK To Shut Out Disabled Kids?

Tell state officials: Don’t appeal CCJEF ruling

Did one Connecticut judge just change the conversation about education inequality?

The Aftermath Of The CCJEF Ruling: What Is Next For Public Education In Connecticut?

Judge correctly identified need for systemic public education overhaul

In Perplexing Decision, Connecticut Judge Fails to Raise the Bar for Adequate School Funding


A MUST READ – Kevin Rennie: Judge Decides Disabled Kids Not Worth Teaching


Hartford Courant columnist, blogger, lawyer and former legislator, Kevin Rennie, has a MUST READ commentary piece in the Hartford Courant today about Judge Moukawsher’s outrageous and mean-spirited attack on Connecticut children who require special education services.

Reposted below, you can read and comment on Kevin Rennie’s piece at:   http://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-rennie-ct-school-moukawsher-disabled-0918-20160915-column.html

Kevin Rennie writes;

Compassion has been declared unconstitutional by a Superior Court judge. Our leaders refuse to condemn his brutal assault on those with disabilities. Delusions rule as Connecticut enters an age of shame.

Thomas Moukawsher, a judge, Malloy appointee and former Democratic organization foot soldier, read his meandering, sloppy decision on public school funding on Sept. 7. Then, otherwise comprehending people seemed not to understand what they had heard. The plaintiffs, a coalition of municipalities and education organizations, had sued for billions in new state spending but did not get it. They nevertheless declared victory.

Disclosure: I knew Moukawsher well when he was a banking lobbyist, during his one term in the legislature and for several years after that. I have not spoken to him in nearly 20 years.

The organizations in the coalition have maintained an indecent silence on what the decision says about providing an education for 15 percent to 17 percent of public school students with special needs. The reader will struggle to find an island of thought in the decision’s sea of bilge, but there is one on the subject of people with disabilities: It is irrational and unconstitutional, Moukawsher declaimed from the bench, to continue to provide an eduction for many of them.

The 20th century taught us that when societies turn on people with disabilities, they often do not stop there. They inflict misery on others and everlasting shame on themselves. Connecticut must not join them in the darkness.

If you want to know what an attack on freedom under the rule of law looks like, peruse the education funding decision. Special education was not an issue the plaintiffs raised. The attorney general, defending the state, warned Moukawsher off the issue in a trial brief, but to no avail. Children with disabilities were in his sights and he fired away. Children with more than one disability receive particularly cruel attention.

Schools under this misbegotten decision will have no obligation to educate children with disabilities they deem to have “a minimal or no chance for education.” This insidious missile cannot go unanswered in the Constitution State. There are no specifics on how or which children with special needs are to be denied access to our schools. What we do know is that a judge with a dark, Trumpian view of humanity is abusing his authority and inviting broad violation of federal protections.

Harry Truman explained America’s greatness in a sentence: “We believe in the dignity of man.” Not in Connecticut if this social Darwinian decision is allowed to stand. Consider the implications. The law requires us to educate children who arrived here illegally. Most of us have no quarrel with that. Do we want, however, to live in a state where illegal immigrants are welcomed to our schools but the disabled are barred at the door?

The heroic Helen Keller observed, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” That describes the Moukawsher decision. I mention Helen Keller because, when she was 19 months old, she lost her hearing and sight to what was probably meningitis. A teacher, Anne Sullivan, led Miss Keller out of the darkness with their unique system of spelling words with their hands.

Helen Keller with her multiple disabilities went on to graduate from Radcliffe College. Through her writing, advocacy and love of humanity, Miss Keller became one of the world’s most admired people. Our own Mark Twain, one of her most devoted admirers, said, “She is fellow to Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon, Homer, Shakespeare and the rest of the immortals.”

There would be no place for Helen Keller in Moukawsher’s Connecticut, other than in the shadows of isolation. The court opinion misses an essential benefit of special education that is bestowed on the other students. Their contact with students with disabilities provides daily lessons in Harry Truman’s dignity of man. Lessons that last a lifetime and lift our society.

It should not be too much to expect a judge to understand that. But Moukawsher’s poisonous elitism reveals him as bent on banishing thousands of disabled from our public education system and consigning them to undisclosed, likely isolated, locations. Is this anyone’s, other than one judge’s, idea of what 21st-century Connecticut should be?

Challenging Connecticut Judge’s ignorant statements about “disabled” children


In an extremely powerful Hartford Courant commentary piece, Andrew Feinstein, a special education expert and advocate, addresses the “dark poison” contained in Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s recent ruling in the CCJEF v. Rell case. (See Wait, What? post entitled, Inside school funding “victory,” CT Judge apparently seeks to set special education services back 40 years).

Attorney Feinstein writes;

“…Judge Moukawsher proposed that certain children with severe disabilities be denied a public education. He says, “The call is not about whether certain profoundly disabled children are entitled to a ‘free appropriate public education.’ It is about whether schools can decide in an education plan for a covered child that the child has a minimal or no chance for education, and therefore the school should not make expensive, extensive, and ultimately pro-forma efforts.” He claims, inaccurately, that “no case holds otherwise, and this means that extensive services are not always required.”

This triage proposal is at odds with what the litigants argued in the case and diametrically opposed to federal civil rights law. The judge proposes discriminating against the severely disabled. Yet, discrimination based on the severity of disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Judge Ellen Bree Burns addressed this issue head-on in Messier v. Southbury Training School. Federal ADA regulations provide that a public entity, such as a school board, may not provide different benefits or services to individuals with disabilities or to any class of individuals with disabilities than is provided to others unless such action is necessary to provide qualified individuals with disabilities with benefits or services that are as effective as those provided to others.

Judge Burns wrote that courts have repeatedly held that the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibit discrimination based on the severity of disability. Specifically, she held that the state violated the ADA by failing to provide profoundly or severely disabled individuals with the same array of services as those provided to other less handicapped individuals, thereby discriminating solely on the degree of disability.

Subsequently, the United States Supreme Court came to the same conclusion. The question of whether ADA covers discrimination among disabled individuals was clearly confronted in Olmstead v. L.C. Indeed, Justice Clarence Thomas, in his dissent, criticized the majority for finding that “discrimination occurs when some members of a protected group are treated differently from other members of that same group.” Responding to this allegation, the Supreme Court majority called Justice Thomas’ contention “incorrect as a matter of precedent and logic.”

Numerous other federal courts and the U.S. Department of Education have held that it is illegal to discriminate against the most disabled. This policy is not only mandated by the language of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, it is also sound, just and humane. For years, individuals with disabilities have been shunned, segregated and placed out of sight in institutions. By deeming the disabled as the other, we strip them of their humanity and feel free in removing their basic human rights.

Judge Moukawsher deems it economically infeasible to provide comprehensive special education services to those with severe disabilities. He decides that they are hopeless or worthless, and certainly not worth the expenditure of public resources. The judge has no idea what thoughts, dreams, hopes and loves reside in the heart of an individual who cannot speak or who cannot control his or her physical movements. Yet, ignorant of the basic humanity of an individual with a severe disability, he wants to deprive them of educational services. Shame on him.

Equally frightening is the underlying notion that the level of societal expenditures on an individual ought to be based on that individual’s potential contribution to society. We cannot, of course, predict with any accuracy what an individual may offer to the world. Beyond that, this notion could lead to a termination of benefits for the elderly, as well as the disabled. It is a notion out of the selfish and stern philosophy of Ayn Rand.

We must, as a society, reject such an approach. We need to focus on unlocking the potential of all our citizens. We need to focus on the contributions made by each of our neighbors. Only by helping those most in need can we create a just society.

You can read and comment on Andrew Feinstein’s commentary piece at: http://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-feinstein-ct-ruling-hurts-disabled-0911-20160909-story.html

Inside school funding “victory,” CT Judge apparently seeks to set special education services back 40 years


As the evidence makes clear … the State of Connecticut fails to provide most of its cities and towns with adequate school funding.

Now, in an important but flawed legal ruling, the judicial branch of government is finally making it clear that the state’s unwillingness to deal with this significant problem violates Connecticut law.

Yesterday, September 7, 2016, a Connecticut state judge agreed with a coalition of towns, parents and public school advocates that the actual mechanism by which Connecticut distributes school aid is unconstitutional because it fails to provide poorer communities with adequate resources that are required by the Connecticut constitution. The judge’s proposed remedy, however, was limited (More coming on that front).

While the decision is an important milestone on the school funding issue, Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s Memorandum of Decision is nothing short of absurd, ill-conceived and simply  wrong when it comes to Connecticut’s special education programs, the state’s illogical teacher evaluation system and the state’s over-reliance on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC and SAT testing schemes.

In his ruling, Moukawsher actually suggests that students should face even more standardized testing in Connecticut’s classrooms.

And of greatest concern is his unwarranted, outrageous and mean-spirited attack on special education services in Connecticut’s schools.

The truth is that Connecticut has actually been a leader when it comes to providing special education services to those who need extra help in the classroom.  While issues certainly exist when it comes to adequately identifying and providing services to those students who have special needs, the underlying problem is not that students get special education services, but that Connecticut’s cities and towns are left with an unfair share of the burden when it comes to financing those extra educational activities.

In Connecticut, there has been widespread consensus that society and the state have an obligation to ensure that every child is provided with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to live more fulfilling lives and that includes children with special needs.

Yet in an stunning diatribe, Judge Moukawsher appears to suggest that Connecticut retreat from that commitment.

Moukawsher writes;

“Yet school officials never consider the possibility that the education appropriate for some students may be extremely limited because they are too profoundly disabled to get any benefit from an elementary or secondary school education….It is about whether schools can decide in an education plan for a covered child that the child has a minimal or no chance for education, and therefore the school should not make expensive, extensive, and ultimately proforma efforts..

To suggest that Connecticut public schools do not have an obligation to serve, as best they can, every student is to suggest policymakers retreat from the most basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and that of the State of Connecticut, as well as, from federal law and regulations that apply to those who need extra services.

In today’s world, a policy that seeks to define any children as unteachable is repugnant.

One can only hope that the judge, in his haste to issue a ruling, misspoke or misunderstood his fundamental role in ensuring that the state continue to meet its duty to all of Connecticut’s children, their parents and the broader society.

To reiterate, when it comes to Connecticut’s special education programs, the problem is not that services are provided, but that the state is failing to fully reimburse school districts for those costs.

As a society we must recognize our commitment to every public school student.  Stepping back from that commitment is simply not acceptable.

To read the Judge’s entire Memorandum of Decision go to; https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3100630-School-Funding-Decision.html

More media coverage of the ruling can be found at:

Judge strikes down state education aid choices as ‘irrational’  (CT Mirror)

Ruling may end ‘hold harmless’ principle in CT budget politics (CT Mirror)

Judge Orders State To Make Sweeping Changes To Education Funding, Policies (CT Newsjunkie)

Court Orders Far-Reaching Reforms for Public Schools (Hartford Courant)

Judge says state’s school funding formula is irrational  (CT Post)

Judge, Citing Inequality, Orders Connecticut to overhaul its school system (New York Times)

Achievement First Inc. pledged to do better with special education students but didn’t

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Last week, Achievement First Inc. the large charter school chain with schools in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island was hit with a lawsuit about its failure to fulfill its legal obligation to special education students at its Crown Heights, New York Charter School.

It was only two years ago that a Hartford Courant headline read, “Achievement First Pledges To Do Better With Disabled Students.” The paper added, “Civil Rights Complaint Said Too Often Students With Disabilities Suspended, Given Demerits.”

The complaint against Achievement First Hartford was filed by Greater Hartford Legal Aid against Achievement First’s Connecticut operation.  The lawsuit alleged;

“Achievement First’s failure to provide accommodations, modifications, and specialized instruction per 504 plans or IEPs, and AF’s pervasive discriminatory discipline practices violated violate federal and state law.”

The specific allegations included Achievement First’s violation of Title II of the American with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act.

Following a federal investigation, Achievement First, Inc. signed a “Voluntary Resolution Agreement” on May 30, 2013 in which it promised to do a better job providing students with services and improving training for administrators, teachers and staff to ensure with special education requirements were treated appropriately.

Among the long list of action items in the Resolution Agreement was the overhaul of Achievement First Inc.’s “School Culture Manual” so that parents not only understood their fundamental rights but were properly informed on how to access services for their children.

But despite the promises to do better, Achievement First is back in the news with yet another failure to provide legally required special education services.

On November 5, 2015 the New York Times reported, Lawsuit Accuses Brooklyn Charter School of Failing to Provide Special Education Services

As fellow bloggers Diane Ravitch explained in her follow up blog;

A lawsuit was filed in federal court on behalf of five students at Achievement First Crown Heights, claiming that the charter school did not provide mandated services “and were punished for behavior that arose from their disabilities.”

The lawsuit charged that the students did not get physical therapy and other services for weeks, and that a student with autism “was disciplined for not looking in the direction a teacher instructed or for hiding under his desk.”

Achievement First is a “no-excuses” charter chain with schools in New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Its backers include some of the wealthiest supporters of privatization.

The families are also suing the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Education Department for permitting Achievement First to avoid its legal responsibilities to the children.

Pedido Street School, another leading education blog added,

The suit, filed on behalf of five students at Achievement First Crown Heights, described a “systemic failure to provide them a free appropriate public education, in violation of their rights.”

The systemic failure to provide services is especially troubling considering the Hartford Courant’s June 2013 story entitled, Achievement First Pledges To Do Better With Disabled Students.

The Hartford Courant reported;

A new federal civil rights agreement aims to get better and more appropriate services for children with disabilities who have been continually suspended or excluded from class at Achievement First Hartford Academy Middle School for disciplinary reasons.

Maria Morelli-Wolfe, a lawyer with Greater Hartford Legal Aid Inc., which last year filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of children with disabilities at the public charter school, said that very often those students spend too many hours out of the classroom — suspended in school or out of school — because of behaviors they weren’t necessarily able to control.

“Many, many days, they couldn’t catch a break, particularly those kids with disabilities that result in behavioral issues,” said Morelli-Wolfe. “They would get caught up in the cycle of the rigid discipline policies of Achievement First and they just couldn’t break free of them, sometimes for very small behaviors, even like tapping pencils. … Some of the cases were just heartbreaking.”


As part of its agreement with the Office for Civil Rights, Achievement First has promised to train staff not only in the federal education requirements for disabled students, but in the characteristics of disabilities such as autism, mood disorders, attention deficit disorder, and childhood trauma. It has also agreed to develop a centralized data system to track removal of disabled students from classrooms.


The agreement, which was released Monday, comes less than a week after the release of a report from the state Department of Education that showed that Achievement First charter schools have among the highest rates of suspension or expulsion in the state for all students, not just those with disabilities.

The report said that 49.4 percent of the students at Achievement First Hartford Academy Middle School had received at least one in-school or out-of-school suspension or expulsion — the highest percentage noted in the state report.

Johanna Rodriguez, whose eighth-grade son was included in the civil rights complaint, said her son was suspended and at home for most of last year, while this year she said he was suspended in school most of the time in a room set aside for students who are removed from class because of a behavior issue.

For lesser offenses, he was given “re-orientation” where he could remain in class, but had to wear a white shirt and other students were not allowed to talk to him.

Rodriguez said she got called “just about every day” and told that her son was being removed from class because he had been fidgeting or not promptly carrying out directions or talking to himself or humming in class.

She said her son has a variety of disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other problem behaviors. She said she warned Achievement First before her son enrolled in the sixth grade. “I told them he’s a handful,” Rodriguez said. She said she asked “Are you sure you can handle him?”

Over the past two years, she said, the academy had promised special accommodations for her son in various ways but didn’t follow through.

According to the complaint filed by the Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Achievement First has a “no excuses” philosophy that says, “We must refuse to make excuses for our students because of their prior education, their family situation, their community, or other potential excuses.”

The complaint said that “based on our experiences with Achievement First, learning, emotional or behavioral disabilities are often viewed as just another ‘potential excuse.'”

Achievement First Inc., like most charter schools, consistently fail to enroll their fair share of students who require special education services.

The following chart using data from 2012-2013 provides just a glimpse of Achievement First’s unwillingness or inability to accept and service special needs students in Connecticut.  In addition, when it comes to the special education students that Achievement First Inc. and other charter schools do accept, they are tend to be special education students who require fewer services.


Hartford Public Schools   14.2%
Achievement First Hartford  7.8%
Bridgeport Public Schools 12.7%
Achievement First Bridgeport 8.0%
New Haven Public Schools 11.1%
Achievement First – Elm City 6.5%
Achievement First – Amistad 5.0%

NOTE:  Considering THAT charter schools get reimbursed for any and all special education expenses, in addition to their per pupil grant, there is absolutely no excuse for charter schools to refuse to enroll students with special needs or push out those who require additional services.

The harsh reality is that while Achievement First Inc. and other charter schools like to apply a “no excuses” mantra for students, the record of lawsuits and media reports make it clear that when it comes to their own policies and actions these charter schools like to “talk the talk” but utterly fail to “walk the walk” when it comes to being real public schools.

BEWARE: 9 in 10 Children who utilize special education services will fail the inappropriate Common Core SBAC Test


While the Malloy administration continues its immoral and unethical attempt to stop parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test, a growing number of parents are stepping forward and utilizing their unalienable right to protect their children from a standardized testing program that is designed to ensure that as many in seven in ten public school children are deemed failures following this year’s Common Core SBAC Testing charade.

The failure rate is projected to be significantly higher for children who utilize special education services, children who aren’t fluent in the English Language and children who face economic and social challenges.  The SBAC testing organization’s own report projects that 9 in 10 special education students and English Language Learners will be labeled failures when the tests are completed.

But in what may be the crassest move yet, the Malloy administration sent a “DRAFT LETTER” to local school superintendents today that they are supposed to use to quell the growing movement of parents who are opting their children out of Common Core SBAC Tests.

Among other absurd statements, the “DRAFT LETTER” states;

The Smarter Balanced assessments will be administered on computers and are designed to measure these skills through reading comprehension, writing, and math questions that require students to demonstrate that they truly understand the content. Additional supports are available for some students with special needs, as determined by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.

But the letter fails to provide parents with the truth about just how harshly the Common Core SBAC Test will judge those students with “special needs, as determined by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.”

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium has provided members states with a study that includes the projected results of this year’s Common Core SBAC Test.

The projected results are based on Pass/Fail “Cut Scores” that the Malloy administration approved, while the officials from Vermont and New Hampshire – the other two New England States using the Common Core SBAC Test – refused to endorse.

To force special educations students to take a test that is designed to fail 9 in 10 of those children is more than immoral; it is nothing short of illegal!

The projected results of the Common Core SBAC test for children requiring special education services are as follows;

SBAC  Test (Sub-Group Special Education/IEP) % Projected to FAIL
English/Language Arts
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 84.2% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 83.6%
5th Grade 87.0%
6th Grade 91.1%
7th Grade 92.7%
8th Grade 91.5%
11th Grade 91.0%


3rd Grade – Special Education Students 81.6% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 87.1%
5th Grade 90.5%
6th Grade 90.3%
7th Grade 91.2%
8th Grade 92.2%
11th Grade 92.5%

Tracing the Malloy Administration’s deceit on Opting Out of the Common Core SBAC Testing


Late yesterday afternoon, Dianna R. Wentzell, Governor Malloy’s Interim Commissioner of Education issued a directive to Connecticut school superintendents reiterating the lie the Connecticut parents do not have the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing Program.

For information about the letter see Wait, What? Post: Malloy’s Education Commissioner seeks to stamp out parental rights on Common Core SBAC Testing opt out

After months of silence and despite the overwhelming fact that there is no federal or state law that allows the government or school districts to punish children (or parents) who opt their children out of the Common Core Testing Scam, Malloy’s interim Commissioner of Education incredibly instructed school superintendents to continue their unethical and immoral harassment of parents who are seeking to protect their children by opting them out of the Common Core SBAC Tests – A test that is rigged to ensure that as many as 7 in 10 Connecticut public school students are deemed failures and that more than 90 percent of special education students and English Language Learners have “fail” attached to their academic records.

Last year, attorney Alan Taylor, the Chairman of the State Board of Education, made it extremely clear in his testimony to the Connecticut General Assembly that these was no mechanism to punish students (or parents) who opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests.

With that background, the Interim Commissioner’s action is not only highly inappropriate but suspect.

What is going on behind the scenes that would lead Malloy’s Commissioner to issue a threatening letter that seeks to limit parental rights?

As John F. Kennedy said,

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.”

Considering the decisions are being made by public employees, who are paid with taxpayer funds, Connecticut parents have a right to know who and why their government is seeking to limit their rights.

To that end and pursuant to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act, the Interim Commissioner of Education (and her staff) is being asked to turn over all documents, communications, emails, attachments and memos about the Common Core SBAC Test Opt-Out issue that were written, sent or received since January 1, 2015.

Parallel requests are being submitted to a select group of school superintendents who have maintained that parents do not have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test.  This list includes the school superintendents of Westport, Fairfield and Ridgefield Connecticut, as well as others.

Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws require that the receipt of these requests be acknowledged within twenty-four hours and that the materials requested by provided in a rapid and appropriate time frame.

Furthermore, since the requests are for electronic copies of all documents, communications, emails, attachments and memos about the Common Core SBAC Test Opt-Out issue that were written, sent or received since January 1, 2015, these public officials are required to provide the information free of charge.

As the information is provided, it will be posted here so that Wait, What? readers and the public can learn the truth about why government officials are engaged in an ongoing effort to prevent parents from utilizing their constitutionally guaranteed right to protect their children from the damage that will be caused by the Common Core SBAC testing.

At the State Department of Education, the Freedom of Information request will be directed to Interim Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell, her Executive Assistant and Kelly Donnelly the State Department of Education’s Director of Communications and Community Partnerships.

Superintendents receiving the Freedom of Information Act requests include;

Westport Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon

Fairfield Superintendent of Schools David Title

Ridgefield Superintendent of Schools Deborah Low

To illustrate the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory nature of the Common Core SBAC test, a parent need only look at the projected “Failure Rate” for students with disabilities that require special education services.

These pass/fail “cut scores” were adopted by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium in November 2014 with Governor Malloy’s administration voting in favor of the “cut scores,” while the representatives of the governors’ of Vermont and New Hampshire (the other two SBAC states in New England) abstained in the vote, refusing to support the discriminatory pass/fail “cut scores.”)

As readers can see, the projected “Failure” rate for special education students on the Common Core SBAC Test [A rate that mirrors that of other demographic sub-categories of students] is more than immoral; it is nothing short of illegal.

SBAC  Test (Sub-Group Special Education/IEP) % Projected to FAIL
English/Language Arts
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 84.2% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 83.6%
5th Grade 87.0%
6th Grade 91.1%
7th Grade 92.7%
8th Grade 91.5%
11th Grade 91.0%
3rd Grade – Special Education Students 81.6% Projected to FAIL
4th Grade 87.1%
5th Grade 90.5%
6th Grade 90.3%
7th Grade 91.2%
8th Grade 92.2%
11th Grade 92.5%

The Paul Vallas Legacy: “Bridgeport systematically violated special education laws”


Paul Vallas hasn’t even left Bridgeport…In fact; the taxpayers of Connecticut and Bridgeport are picking up his salary and benefits for another month… But his legacy is already becoming clear.

Late last week, the Connecticut State Department of Education released a report blasting the Paul Vallas’ leadership and the Bridgeport School System because, among other violations, it “systematically failed to identify a number of students determined to be eligible for special education…”

The damage done to significant number of Bridgeport’s special education students and the violation of federal and state laws that are in place to ensure special education students get the services they need and deserve, is a direct result of Paul Vallas’ policy of arrogance and deceit.

Long time Wait, What? readers may remember a series of blog posts about the outrageous and inappropriate changes that Paul Vallas, in the name of cutting costs, was making to Bridgeport’s special education program.

The posts specifically highlighted items that the State Department of Education has now deemed illegal and inappropriate.

For background read;

UPDATE: Bridgeport’s Assault on Special Education: Time for Commissioner Pryor to intervene… (August 28, 2012)

News Flash: Team Vallas Addresses Special Education Funding Issue (sort of) (August 23, 2012)

What is Paul Vallas doing to Bridgeport’s Special Education Students? (August 21, 2012)

As the Connecticut Post reported this week:

“In response to an October 2013 complaint filed by the Center for Children’s Advocacy against the district, the state conducted an investigation and determined that the district violated its obligations to students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and state law.

Most of the examples cited in the complaint were from the 2012-13 school year, when under outgoing Schools Superintendent Paul Vallas there was a concerted effort to bring down special education costs.”

The report is a chilling reminder of what happens to individual students when administrators are allowed to disregard their legal and moral duties to children.

The Connecticut Post highlighted a few examples including;

One of the students cited in the complaint had struggled academically since first grade, failed and repeated sixth grade. Because of his age was advanced to high school last year, where he failed every subject. Even so, the district never held a meeting to discuss the student’s suspected educational or emotional disabilities or potential support services that might help him academically.

Another student was placed on homebound instruction for most of the 2012-13 school year due to mental health issues, but a placement meeting was not convened until July 2013.

Students at Harding, Bassick, Marin [schools] went without receiving a Planning and Placement Team assessment as is required under a federal Child Find mandate.

Paul Vallas and the Bridgeport Schools literally put some of Connecticut’s most vulnerable students at risk… all so that he, along with the former Board of Education, Mayor Bill Finch, Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor could crow about Vallas’ miraculous ability to balance he school budget.

A copy of the State Department of Education’s finding can be read here: http://blog.ctnews.com/education/files/2014/01/State-findings.pdf

You can read the Connecticut Post story here: http://blog.ctnews.com/education/2014/01/24/bridgeport-systematically-violated-special-education-laws/

Take the time to skim the actual State Department of Education report.

The sad truth is that as terrible as these stories are, if the State Department of Education does its job and investigates Steve Perry and Capital Prep Magnet School, the results will be disturbingly similar….if not worse.

Charter Schools and the systematic discrimination of special education students


Most charter schools are failing to take their fair share of students who require special education services

You can always count on Connecticut resident, fellow blogger and public education advocate, Jonathan Kantrowitz, to explore the important issues with a sophisticated, fact-based approach.

In a new blog post entitled, “Why the Gap? Special Education and New York City Charter Schools,” Jonathan Kantrowitz examines data coming out of New York City about the failure of charter schools to take and keep students who need special education services.

Kantrowitz writes;

This studyfrom the Center on Reinventing Public Education, uses NYC data to analyze the factors driving the gap in special education enrollment between charter and traditional public schools. Among the findings:

  • Students with disabilities are less likely to apply to charter schools in kindergarten than are regular enrollment students. This is the primary driver of the gap in special education enrollments.
  • The gap grows as students progress through elementary grades, largely because charter schools are less likely than district schools to place students in special education—and less likely to keep them there.
  •  The gap also grows as students transfer between charter and district schools. Between kindergarten and third grade, greater proportions of regular education students enter charter schools, compared to students with special needs.
  • There is great mobility among special education students, whether they attend a charter or traditional public school. Close to a third of students in special education leave their school by the fourth year of attendance, whether they are enrolled in charters or traditional public schools.

Given the complex factors revealed by the study, the report cautions against simplistic policy solutions like quotas and enrollment targets. Instead, policy attention might be more usefully spent identifying and replicating effective academic or behavioral interventions that allow schools to declassify students with mild disabilities, and investigating why parents of students with special needs are not choosing charters early on.

You can read his full blog post here: http://educationresearchreport.blogspot.com/2013/10/why-gap-special-education-and-new-york.html

What is clear is that many charter schools want to claim the mantle of being public schools, but the majority fail to take their fair share of students who need special education services, just as they fail to take their fair share of students who need extra help when it comes to learning the English language.

There are undoubtedly charter schools that understand the fundamental role of public schools and do make a real effort to provide educational opportunities to the full range of students, but those charter schools are outliers compared to the vast majority of  their colleagues.

As another New York City study found;

“…[NYC] charter schools enroll a smaller percentage of special education students than do district schools. But more importantly, charter schools do not enroll the same kind of special ed students as the district schools. While special education enrollment in charters grew over the last year, the special ed students who attend charters have much lower levels of disability than their special ed counterparts at neighboring district schools.

Practically none of the 57 charters we reviewed enroll “self-contained” students, the highest category of need, who must be taught in separate classrooms with one teacher for every 6 or 12 students. Very few enroll “collaborative team teaching” students, who are educated in mixed classrooms with two teachers, one a specialist. These two higher-need categories of special education students by and large attend district schools. Students who require the less-intensive “related services,” such as speech or physical therapy, are by far the most prevalent special education type in the charters. ”

Similar observations have been made in Connecticut.

Even at the most basic level, most Connecticut Charter Schools consistently fail to educate their fair share of students who need special education services

Here is the latest available data on students needing special education services in selected district schools in Connecticut versus selected charter schools in Connecticut

District/School 2010-2011 % Special Education 
Hartford Public Schools 12.5%
AF – Hartford Academy 7.7%
Jumoke Academy* 2.3%
New Haven Public Schools 10.8%
AF – Amistad 5.4%
AF – Elm City* 4.0%
Bridgeport Public Schools 12.1%
AF-Bridgeport 7.3%
Park City Prep 8.4%
Bridge Academy 12.2%

(*) 2010-2011 report not on file, data is 2009-2010

While charter school funding is the fastest growing area of Governor Malloy’s education budget, the evidence is clear that Connecticut’s charter schools are consistently failing to provide educational opportunities to special education students and students who need extra help with the English language.

Vallas “no bid” special education software deal in Bridgeport continues to be a disaster


It was one of the first non-bid contracts that Bridgeport’s “Superintendent of Schools,” Paul Vallas pushed through.  Using a half-baked “sole-source” rationale, Vallas hired a company that he had worked with in Chicago and Philadelphia without using any bidding process.

The contract promised Bridgeport a state-of-the-art special education software program “for free,” as long as the Public Consulting Group was given a lucrative Medicaid reimbursement contract.

The new software was scheduled to come on-line July 1, 2012.

Soon, free became $100,000 plus with more “option costs” to come.

July 1, 2012 came and went…with no Easy IEP software

Then August, September, October, November, December 2012 and still no software.

January, February and March 2013 came and went without a working version of the Easy IEP special education software.

Finally, Easy IEP was scheduled to go live on April 1, 2013 with a complete shift by the end of April.

Here we are in May 2013 and multiple Bridgeport teachers and professional staff have reported that the “state-of-the-art” software is such a mess that special education teachers are relegated to hand-writing their IEPs and producing reports in the same way they were doing it 40 years ago.

This is the most important part of the year for updating IEPs and meeting state and federal mandates for special education reporting.

Instead of the promised comprehensive system, teachers and staff are reporting chaos.

Not only are students in need of special education services being short-changed but the cost to Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayers could be astronomical.

Just take a look at the news out of New York City when the software system implemented by the Bloomberg Administration fell apart;

NEWS: Overtime bill for staff using special ed system totals $38.5M


The city doled out $38.5 million in back pay to schools staff who were wrongly required to work overtime on a buggy special education data system, according to payment details released today by the education department.

Nearly 30,000 therapists, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists received the overtime payments this month after an independent arbitrator ruled in January that the Department of Education violated the United Federation of Teachers’ contract. The first round of payments, on April 12, totaled $2.6 million for 1,700 occupational and physical therapists and the second and final payment — $35.9 million — went out to the rest of employees today.

The total number of educators who qualified for overtime far exceeded UFT’s estimates, which hovered at around 10,000. The UFT filed the labor complaint in mid-2011, charging that staff should not have been required to work outside of their contractual school day.

The unintentional overtime centered on time that educators spent plugging data into the Special Education Student Information System. According to teachers and union staff, the program does not have basic functions that are routinely found in other computer programs, such as an ‘auto save’ feature.

In a statement today, UFT President Michael Mulgrew said that SESIS continues to be unnecessarily time-consuming for teachers and a wasteful example of the city’s pricey technology contracts.

“Thousands of hours that teachers could have spent helping kids were wasted trying to get this boondoggle of a computer system to work,” Mulgrew said. “But just as CityTime cost the city millions of dollars year after year, until SESIS is fixed or scrapped it will continue to be a money pit.”

Department of Education officials defended SESIS, which tracks student attendance and keeps a record of services that special education students receive.

“Keeping accurate and complete records on services provided to special needs students is necessary to ensure that we are providing quality services, and we are working to ensure that all staff are properly compensated in accordance with the arbitration award,” Connie Pankratz said.”

Meanwhile in Connecticut, neither Mr. Vallas nor the Bridgeport Board of Education has explained what is actually happening with Vallas’ “no-bid” special education software system in Bridgeport.

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