Education Reform, Malloy, Standardized Testing, Stefan Pryor, Wyman Education Reform, Malloy, Stafan Pryor, Standardized Testing, Wyman
All across Connecticut, today – and for much of the next two weeks – educational activities will come to a halt for Connecticut’s 570,000 students. In the state’s more than 1,100 schools, teachers will stop teaching and children will stop learning.
Instead, the attention of teachers and children will turn to the Connecticut Mastery Tests and the task of filling in bubbles.
Faced with a growing state deficit, state and local government are increasing taxes and cutting services….including some of the most vital and essential services provided by government.
However, over the next two weeks, approximately $30 million in Connecticut taxpayer funds will go to one of the nation’s largest for-profit testing companies to pay for these standardized tests, scoring these tests and the necessary profit that goes along with their “work.”
Add in the lost teaching time and overhead and Connecticut will be diverting at least $50 million away from its already underfunded public education system.
All this so that we can determine that, in fact, poverty, language barriers and the need for special education services continue to be the three single biggest factors in determining standardized tests scores.
With less poverty and language barriers, suburban students will do better.
With more poverty and language barriers, urban students will do worse.
Students who require special education services will perform better or worse depending, in part, on whether their districts are providing them with the services they need and deserve. And more often than not, the answer to that question depends on whether the local school districts have the funds necessary to properly cover special education costs.
So that is an expenditure of $50 million to tell us what we already know.
The only difference is that this year, if Governor Malloy and his administration, including Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor have their way, the test results will then be used to punish teachers for factors that are clearly beyond their control.
In honor of this crime against our children, here are three (3) things to consider doing;
1) Sign the Parents Across America – Connecticut Chapter petition against the overuse of standardized testing: Reduce the use of Standardized Testing in Connecticut
2) Drop a note to Governor Malloy, Lt. Governor Wyman and Commissioner Pryor:
3) Order yourself a Tested to Despair Bumper Sticker: See the link to the right of the Wait, What Blog or click on: TESTED TO DESPAIR BUMPER STICKERS
Malloy, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski Malloy, Paul Vallas, Stafan Pryor, Steven Adamowski
Sarah Darer Littman and Wendy Lecker have written two incredible news/commentary pieces that are essential reading for those who want to understand what Malloy, Pryor, Vallas and Adamowski are doing to Connecticut’s public education system….
I urge you to take the time to read them…
Once You Get Past the Tweets, School ‘Turnaround’ Shortcomings Abound
In case you missed it, Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s controversial part-time Superintendent of Schools, has joined Twitter. His first tweets were . . . revealing.
As was previously reported, Vallas has partnered with Dallas-based Cambium Learning Group to form Vallas Turnaround. Vallas makes strong claims: “Within one year your school district can see significant results in academic performance and budget stability.” The new firm’s website points to “Proven and lauded success in Philadelphia, Chicago, post-Katrina New Orleans, post–Earthquake Haiti, and Chile.”
But let’s go into the Wayback machine and review some of these “proven and lauded successes” of the Vallas Model, shall we?
First of all there’s Chicago, where Vallas was CEO of Chicago Public Schools from 1995 to 2001. While it’s true that Vallas was lauded for his success, most notably by then-President Bill Clinton, he also has many critics.
As for the lasting impact of his reforms, a study last September from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research found that while graduation rates have “improved dramatically” and high school test scores have risen, math scores have improved incrementally in the elementary/middle grades, while elementary/middle grade reading scores remained fairly flat for two decades.
The most disturbing part of the study was that racial gaps in achievement have steadily increased, with white students making slightly more progress than Latino students, and African American students falling behind all other groups.
Read more at http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/once_you_get_past_the_tweets_school_turnaround_shortcomings_abound/
School takeovers disenfranchise poor districts
School boards are hallmarks of representative democracy; public forums where members answer directly to the community for the education of their children. As Connecticut’s highest court recognized, local school boards are “most responsive to the needs of the local school district and the will of the local population.” They are truly “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
Unless you live in a poor school district in Connecticut.
A dangerous trend in current educational reform is the disenfranchisement of voters in poor districts. Pontificating about “school improvement,” our state government is routinely stripping the powers of rightfully elected boards of education, as if student achievement and democracy are somehow incompatible.
New London and Bridgeport are the latest victims.
On June 6, the state Board of Education voted to appoint a special master to run New London’s school district. The pretext for this takeover was the dysfunction of the school board, which the state found was rife with personal agendas (and state government isn’t?) and conflicts with the superintendent.
Commissioner Stefan Pryor presented his case at the state BOE meeting. Except for Pryor’s passing reference to an “interrelationship between achievement and governance,” no one demonstrated any causal relationship, or any connection, between the board’s behavior and student test scores.
In fact the state readily admitted that, “Many of the problems of New London and the New London School District are the direct result of economic decline and poverty.
Read more at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-School-takeovers-disenfranchise-3674280.php
Bridgeport, Education Reform, Paul Vallas, Stefan Pryor, Steven Adamowski Paul Vallas, Stafan Pryor
Who said competitive bidding doesn’t work
Pryor, Vallas, Adamowski and the other “education reformers’ appear to have a proclivity to by-pass the competitive bidding requirements or the need to get a group of the impacted people together to review alternative vendors and products.
And yet, when the need arises, that old adage kicks in – “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
Take the following case study, for example.
When Gary Chico, the Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education finished the board meeting six weeks ago, The Vallas Group had “won” a million-dollar contract to come in and assist some of the failing school districts in northern Illinois.
Vallas beat out four other companies in a competitive bid process that saw the large and experienced, Washington D.C- based, American Institute for Research come in second.
While the Vallas Group wasn’t the lowest bid, the three reviewers gave them a nearly perfect score. (http://www.isbe.state.il.us/foia/pdf/fy2012/may12/12-370-doc2.pdf ).
And just for background, let’s just say that it would be an understatement to say that Chico and Vallas go way back.
Gary Chico worked as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s Chief of Staff from 1992 to 1995. Paul Vallas was the numbers guy. When Daley moved to take greater control of Chicago’s schools in 1995, (with a nod to John Dillinger or Willie Sutton or whoever actually said, “Because that’s where the money is”) Daley asked Chico to serve as the school system’s CEO.
Chico didn’t want the job, but recommended Vallas. Chico became the Board of Education President and Vallas took on the role of CEO. Together they ruled the Chicago schools until 2001.
After the team ran the schools, Chico went on to lose a run for the US Senate in 2004, but returned to municipal service in 2007 when he was named board president of the Chicago Park District. He moved on to become board president for the City Colleges of Chicago in 2010.
In February 2011, Chico also ran for Mayor, finishing a distant second to Rahm Emanuel. Who was Chico’s campaign manager? None other than Dean Vallas, Paul’s brother. And what was one of highlights of Chico’s failing campaign, when Paul Vallas returned to Chicago to endorse his friend.
Three months later, Chico was appointed Chairman of the Illinois Board of Education.
As to the news that Chico was taking over the Illinois Board, one Chicago blogger wrote “Let’s be clear about what the Chico regime accomplished…It started the city down the path of privatization…. He also drastically cut recess, physical education and the arts while increasing standardized testing. The short-term gains [in test scores] have long since left the system, and even then those ‘gains’ were just incremental improvements.” (Hey that sounds familiar)
Meanwhile, after serving as CEO of the Chicago Schools, Paul Vallas also made a run for elective office. With his brother’s help, Paul Vallas ran for Governor in 2002, losing a Democratic primary to Rod Blagojevich by only 25,000 votes. The campaign left Vallas with a $537,000 campaign debt, which apparently, years later, he and his brother ended up having to personally pay off.
With that loss he headed to Philadelphia and then New Orleans, but strongly considered a run for President of the Illinois Cook County Board in 2010, interestingly, this time he decided to run as a Republican.
Republicans rejoiced at the news. One Republican leader was quoted as saying “I think he’d be an excellent candidate…He’d be great for Republicans, great for Cook County…”
Although Vallas set up an exploratory committee, he ended up passing on the Cook Country run, instead staying in New Orleans while picking up major consulting contracts in Haiti and Chile.
Adding Bridgeport to his resume last year, his consulting company, The Vallas Group is now busy adding clients, including the $1 million dollar contract, his friend Paul Chico was able to vote on during the recent Illinois State Board of Education meeting.
All of that bring us back to the issue about why the “education reformers” seem unwilling to follow the letter or the spirit of Connecticut law when it comes to competitive bidding?
If it worked to them when the wanted a million dollar contracts, why doesn’t it work when they are giving away million dollar contracts?
Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Charter Schools, Hartford, Jumoke, Malloy, Stafan Pryor
Jumoke Charter School, with no non-English speaking students or any experience with English Language Learners, to take over neighborhood school where 40 percent of the students go home to households in which English is not the primary language.
One of the most contentious aspects of Governor Malloy’s “education reform” proposal was the section granting Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, the power to take over a local district school, ban collective bargaining, fire the staff and hand the school over to a third party who would then be exempt from having to follow Connecticut’s laws about competitive bidding and the law limiting the use of consultants.
Many were concerned that Pryor, a key player behind Achievement First Inc., the large charter school management company that runs twenty schools in New York and Connecticut, would use his position to take over neighborhood schools and hand them over to his friends and colleagues in the Charter School industry.
The Democrats in the Connecticut Legislature responded by eliminating a number of the provisions in Malloy’s “Commissioner’s Network” program including limiting the number of schools Pryor could give to charter school companies.
Despite the clear cut legislative intent to put the focus on helping local school districts fix their own schools rather than take over schools and give them to a third party to run, Commissioner Pryor and Christina Kishimoto, the Superintendent of Schools in the City of Hartford, are fast tracking an effort to take the Milner School away from the Hartford Board of Education and give it to the Jumoke Academy, a charter school company that already runs one school in Hartford.
It is ironic, to say the least, that Malloy and Pryor would begin the education reform effort by stomping on Connecticut’s historic dedication to ensuring local citizens run local schools.
At a public meeting last night, the Hartford Superintendent of Schools and Michael Sharpe, the chief executive officer of the Jumoke Academy, laid out their plans for the transfer of the school, even though the State Board of Education hasn’t even had a chance to act on the preliminary steps needed to implement the “Commissioner’s Network” program.
One of the first items up was the news that the Jumoke Academy would not be keeping most of the teachers at the Milner School despite the fact that parents and students have had very positive things to say about the existing teaching staff.
According to press reports, Jumoke’s CEO “conceded that ‘the majority’ of Milner teachers would likely opt to transfer to another city school.” [Read that to mean that Jumoke won’t keep the existing staff so if they want to continue teaching they’ll have to transfer to another Hartford School. The problem being that the new law doesn’t provide Hartford with additional funds so that teachers would, at best, be put into any existing vacancies, as opposed to where it makes the most sense to put them.]
Connecticut’s new law allows Commissioner Pryor to take over up to 25 schools over the next three years and allocates $7.5 million for his program.
When the state recently took over the Windham School System and hired a “Special Master” to oversee the schools, it allocated a total of $1 million in additional funding for Windham. Of that amount, nearly half went to pay the salary and benefits of the “Special Master”, his staff and his hand-picked consultants.
One of the “most interesting” things about the plan to give the Milner School to the Jumoke Academy is that about 25 percent of Milner’s students are not proficient in English and participate in the English Language Learners program.
Jumoke Academy, on the other hand has no non-English speaking students. In fact, not a single one of Jumoke’s more than 430 students goes home to a household that doesn’t use English as their primary language.
In fact, Jumoke has no experience with the English Language Learners program or with students or parents who don’t speak English.
Furthermore, although about 13 percent of Milner’s students have special education needs, Jumoke’s special education population is only 2.3 percent
Considering language barriers and special education needs are two of the three biggest factors in determining success on standardized tests, it is unclear why Commissioner Pryor or Superintendent Kishimoto would think the Jumoke Academy is the best entity to take over the Milner School.
Bridgeport, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Bridgeport, CMT, Education Reform, Malloy, Paul Vallas, Stafan Pryor
Three weeks ago came the news that Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas and the corporate reformers who are busy “turning around” the Bridgeport School System decided to add another round of standardized tests to finish up the school year (even though the state-wide Connecticut Mastery Tests just took place only a few weeks ago.) See Wait What? More Standardized Testing, Hooray!
Vallas’s Chief Administrative Officer informed Bridgeport’s teachers about the development with a memo that read “…there will be end-of-year testing in English Language Arts and mathematics that will mirror the CMT and CAPT examinations. These tests will be administered to all students in Grades 3-11 during the week of June 4th, including Grades 9 and 11 who do not take state assessments.”
According to this new Vallas Doctrine, “traditionally, instruction wanes after the administration of the state tests. Unfortunately, this ‘lull’ in teaching and learning deprives our students of much-needed academic support.”
Sadly Vallas’ team of administrators and consultants failed to provide any evidence to back up their claim and, of course, classroom teachers know that it is only after the tests are done that some of the “real learning” begins.
But Bridgeport is not alone, Connecticut’s recently adopted “education reform” law institutes a new system of standardized reading tests in Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade. Apparently legislators were persuaded that starting the standardized testing process in 3rd grade was just way too late for children’s development.
Back in Bridgeport, neither Vallas nor anyone in his operation explained how that school system, which is already facing a deficit, will come up with the funds needed to buy and score nearly 20,000 standardized tests, but you can bet they aren’t being delivered by the copy center at Staples.
Preparing and scoring standardized tests is big business…
And not just any company has the expertise to develop these tests.
It takes special talents.
For example, the Associated Press recently wrote about the standardized testing situation in New Jersey where Governor Christi, like Governor Malloy, is a big fan of having more standardized testing.
The AP wrote that a recent New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge test included asking some third-graders “to write about a secret and why it was hard to keep.”
After some parents raised concerns, including the question of what happens if a child’s secret has to do with a crime; the state’s Education Department said they were reviewing what had occurred and would then make a decision about whether to keep the question as part of the test.
Meanwhile, it was reported that in New York, the education department decided not to count six multiple-choice questions in that state’s eighth-grade reading exam because, upon review, it was determined that the questions that followed a passage “about a hare and a talking pineapple” did not make sense.
New York officials also admitted that the standardized math tests given in 4th and 8th grade included errors.
Not to worry though, standardized test scores are really only intended to provide teachers and administrators with a sense of how the student is doing…oh and soon they will also count for 22 to 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.
But think about it, as long as the questions are wrong for every child, no one teacher will be disproportionately impacted.
For the AP story go to http://online.wsj.com/article/AP474d1eae404746a8afa7174eac05333b.html
And from the most recent Connecticut Department of Education Report:
“The CMT assesses approximately 250,000 students on their application of skills and knowledge in the academic content areas of mathematics, reading and writing in Grades 3 through 8, and science in Grades 5 and 8. This year marks the sixth administration of the Fourth Generation CMT, which was first administered in March 2006. The March 2006 administration serves as a baseline year for examining changes in student performance over the course of the Fourth Generation.” The report can be found here: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF%5Cpressroom%5C2011_CMT_Press_Release.pdf
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Achievement First, Education Reform, Malloy, Stafan Pryor
The Associated Press has published a story about the developing situation in which the Malloy Administration has repeatedly used “No-Bid Contracts” to select particular vendors to help them develop their “education reform” package. (Link below)
In response to the AP’s questions, the Connecticut Department of Education released a statement yesterday claiming that Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor “has operated pursuant to preexisting practices and procedure.”
Much is still a mystery but what we do know, so far, is that there are at least three no-bid contracts (four if you count the one with “Special Master” Steven Adamowski) that the Malloy Administration has run through the State Education Resource Center (SERC). These contracts total more than $600,000.
In addition, there is another consultant, William Cox, the President and owner of DSA Capital, who was paid by someone – we don’t know whom – to help Commissioner Pryor select and retain the various out-of-state consultants.
Last week, when the Connecticut Post’s Ken Dixon asked William Cox about these issues, Cox told him “I literally have no comment.”
Jonathan Gyurko, a principal at Leeds Equity, the firm being paid $195,000 through SERC, also declined to comment when Dixon asked about the situation. Gyurko had previously served as the Director of Charter Schools for the City of New York. Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company that Stefan Pryor helped create and lead as one of its Directors for eight years until he resigned to become Malloy’s education commissioner, runs ten schools in New York City and ten schools in Connecticut.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that emails between the various players indicates that the contract with Leeds Equity was originally written to run through an organization called the Council of Chief State School Officers. It now appears that some other organization or individual may have transferred $195,000 to CCCSSO to pay for that contract, but a decision was made, at the last moment, to switch strategies and run the Leeds Equity contract through SERC instead.
Last year at this time, William Cox, of DSA Capital, was playing a similar role for Governor Chris Christie’s Education Commissioner as they were ramping up their “education reform” package.
According to the Star Ledger Newspaper; “A private consultant is being paid $60,000 by a California philanthropic foundation to help reorganize the New Jersey Department of Education, acting education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said during today’s Assembly Budget Committee hearing…Cerf said he was working with someone on a part-time basis, describing the man as a “friend” who is “very well respected” in education reform circles across the country.”
Upon further investigation the newspaper learned that the Broad Foundation, a $2 billion “Education Reform” group, was paying DSA Capital to create “a high-level plan” for the [New Jersey] Department of Education.”
The Star-Ledger also reported that DSA Capital was a sub-contractor for a company called Wireless Generation, who had a $500,000 New Jersey state contract to review and help them prepare for what later became their failed “Race to the Top” application. Rupert Murdoch and New York City’s controversial former education chancellor Joel Kline are apparently the driving entities behind Wireless Generation.
The AP story can be found here; http://www.boston.com/news/local/connecticut/articles/2012/05/03/ap_interview_privatization_an_issue_for_ed_bill/ and Ken Dixon’s earlier story here; http://ccag.net/content/ct-post-emails-show-consulting-project-shopped-around.
Check back later for the 5/4/2012 Education Update #2
Education Reform, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Adamowski, Education Reform, Malloy, Stafan Pryor, Windham
What is it about these Malloy appointees and their notion of what constitutes a conflict of interest. Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor seems to be adding to the list on a daily basis and now we’ve got “Special Master” Steven Adamowski.
When it comes to conflicts of interests; you’ve got your straight up “conflict of interest”, your “appearance of a conflict of interest” and then your “just keep moving – I don’t see anything – conflict of interest.”
Now mind you – just because there is a potential conflict of interest doesn’t mean the action is inherently bad, but it is imperative that people be open and honest so that a fair decision can made by all those involved that a specific conflict of interest does not negate the validity of a particular choice.
But apparently, secrecy not transparency is the new world order these days.
And that is what brings us back to Special Master Steven Adamowski and, in this case, the Windham Board of Education’s decision to hire Leadership Greater Hartford to conduct training for the community’s School Governance Councils.
Leadership Greater Hartford (LGH) is a well-known, thirty-five year old organization that is headed by Hartford’s Ted Carroll. LGH provides leadership training to community leaders and organizations. In addition to its own year-long leadership training program called Quest, Leadership Greater Hartford also provides a variety of consulting services and training to different organizations including School Governance Councils.
The group’s Hartford Public Schools’ initiative, created at the request of then Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski, brings together parents, community members, school administrators and teachers to work together in each of Hartford’s 35 public schools, developing strategies aimed at enabling local governance of those schools.
The LGH’s School Governance Council Training Program provides the organization with a growing source of revenue for its $1.1 million budget.
Superintendent Steven Adamowski started paying Leadership Greater Hartford for their services in 2009.
In 2010, Adamowski was awarded the Leadership Greater Hartford’s Polaris Award, the organization’s highest honor for community leadership.
And in January 2012, after leaving the Hartford school system, Adamowski was named to the Leadership Greater Hartford’s Board of Directors.
Then two weeks ago, upon the directive of “Special Master” Steven Adamowski, the Windham Board of Education hired Leadership Greater Hartford to conduct a new training program for that town’s School Governance Council.
There is certainly no question that Leadership Greater Hartford provides a quality service and that the contract for $36,000 plus additional work as needed doesn’t seem particularly high, but there is no evidence that Adamowski or Leadership Greater Hartford made it clear to the Windham Board of Education or the residents of Windham that Adamowski was a Director for the organization or that he had recently been honored by them.
A range of people directly related to Windham’s schools and local government claim they were never told about the potential conflict of interest and there was certainly nothing revealed in the public meetings or on the public documents leading up to the Board of Education’s vote.
In this case, as in others, the government official may not have a direct financial interest in the outcome but even the appearance of a conflict undermines the people’s faith in their government.
And here there was apparently no public pronouncement or public discussion that the person instructing the Board to hire this group had recently become a Director for the group that was getting the contract.
That, in anyone’s book should flag concerns about a conflict of interest.
In fact, what is particularly mysterious is that Leadership Greater Hartford actually has one of the most stringent conflict of interest policies around. LGH requires board members to sign a declaration that they understand they must report any situation in which they provide “directive, managerial, or consultative services to any outside constituent that does business with…Leadership Greater Hartford” and requires them to make “full disclosure of any situation….as to permit an impartial and objective determination” of the possible conflict.
It is hard to imagine that as Adamowski worked to get Leadership Greater Hartford a new contract that no one involved in the process raised the point that perhaps – just perhaps – someone should inform Windham that Adamowski was on the Board of the very organization to which he was directing a contract.