10 courageous Democrats almost stop ethically challenged Erik Clemons from serving on State Board of Education…but small group of Republican legislators save Malloy’s nominee

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Thanks to ten courageous Democratic members of the Connecticut House of Representatives, Governor Dannel Malloy’s ethically challenged nominee for the State Board of Education, Erik Clemons, was on the verge of being rejected by the General Assembly earlier this afternoon.

It would have been a huge victory for honesty and ethics in government, as well as for those who believe in public education.

However, Governor Malloy won this stunning battle – an issue that received no media coverage except here at Wait, What? – thanks to ten Republican legislators who crossed over to vote with the majority of Democrats and in favor of Malloy’s choice to serve on the state board that sets education policy in Connecticut.

As has been repeated reported on this blog, Erik Clemons is the charter school advocate whose company is benefiting from a lucrative, no-bid contract that is funded through, and monitored by, the very government entity that Malloy has appointed him to serve on.

As reported yesterday, the House vote on Erik Clemons’ and the ethical issues that should have prevented him from serving on the State Board of Education were scheduled for a vote today.  (See How will CT legislators vote on Malloy’s ethically challenged State Board of Education appointee?)

When the vote was taken, ten Democratic Members of the Connecticut House of Representatives put ethics, honesty and Connecticut’s children, students, parents and public schools above Malloy’s political agenda.  The Democratic legislators voting no were;

Representative Baker

Representative Conroy

Representative Gonzalez

Representative Hampton

Representative Morin

Representative Nicastro

Representative Rose

Representative Sanchez

Representative Tarcyak

And Representative and Deputy Speaker of the House Godfrey


However, Malloy’s victory came thanks to the following Republicans who voted to disregard the serious ethics issues and in favor of Malloy’s nominee and their anti-public education agenda.  Republican legislators voting to put Erik Clemons on the State Board of Education were;

Representative Hoydick

Representative Kokuruda

Representative Legeyt

Representative Noujaim

Representative O’Neill

Representative Pavalock

Representative Perillo

Representative Piscopo

Representative Wood

Representative Yaccarino.

Had the Republicans stood together on this critically important issue of principle and refused to allow an individual to sit on the State Board of Education when that person and their company benefits from funding that is overseen and approved by the State Board of Education, Clemons nomination would have lost by a vote of 68 in favor of Malloy’s choice and 72 opposed.

More on this breaking story as it becomes available.

For the full vote go to:  https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/VOTE/h/2016HV-00014-R00HJ00027-HV.htm



Fellow public education advocate Wendy Lecker and I have written extensively about Clemons’ conflict of interest and Malloy’s attempt to, once again, throw ethics aside.  Here are links to those articles:

Malloy turns to charter school industry for names to appoint to the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 3-5-16)

CT legislature’s nomination committee votes 10 to 4 today to confirm Erik Clemons to State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-18-16)

It’s a CONFLICT OF INTEREST to serve on the State Board of Education while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year via the State Department of Education (Wait, What? 2-17-16)

Company run by Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education collects $517,128 in funds allocated by the State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-16-16)

New State Board of Education member collects multi-million dollar contract via State Board of Education (Wait, What? 1-5-16)

Malloy gives Charter School Industry another seat on the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 12-23-15)

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


This week’s request by Wait, What? for information about how public school districts in Connecticut are handling parents who want to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests has generated numerous reports that school administrators in a number of districts continue to mislead parents about their fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the testing madness. (See:  Students, Parents, Teachers – Are SBAC testing opt-out requests being handled appropriately in your school?)

Even more shocking are the new reports that additional school districts are actually bulling and abusing children whose parents have opted them out of the SBAC testing scheme.

Immediate action is needed to stop the abuse, along with an independent investigation to determine who has been involved in these practices.

A number of schools are informing students and parents that any child who has been opted out of the Common Core SBAC tests by their parent will be forced to remain in the testing room throughout the test periods, despite the fact that such a tactic violates the Mandatory SBAC testing regulations and protocol. (See:  ALERT – Students opted out of SBAC testing must be provided alternative location during testing.)

Requiring students to stay in the testing room is unfair to both the children who have been opted out and the children who are still taking the test.

In addition, there are apparently a growing number of districts that are telling students who have been opted out of the SBAC testing that they MUST SIGN-IN to the SBAC test on testing days before they will be released from having to complete the rest of the SBAC test.

While this unethical maneuver will make it appear that the school district has met their “mandated” participation rate of at least 95 percent, students who are forced sign in – in order to opt out – will be left with a zero for an SBAC test score, a label of “failure” that will become part of their academic record.

PARENTS PLEASE TAKE NOTE!   If you have opted your child out of the SBAC test make sure that the school is not forcing your child to sign into the test BEFORE being released from the test!

With the Malloy administration continues to use the State Department of Education to undermine Connecticut’s students, parents and public schools, the lack of outrage on the part of many of Connecticut’s elected officials is truly stunning!

With Connecticut General Assembly in the middle of the 2016 legislative session, legislators have an immediate opportunity to stand up against Malloy’s State Department of Education.

Connecticut’s Attorney General George Jepsen is also in a unique position to demand that the State Department of Education and local school districts end their illegal SBAC related activities.

As students, parents, teachers and Connecticut citizens look on, the question remains – will Connecticut’s elected officials take action to protect their constituents and their public schools?

How will CT legislators vote on Malloy’s ethically challenged State Board of Education appointee?


The Connecticut House of Representatives will be meeting tomorrow – Wednesday, March 16, 2016.  On their agenda is a vote to confirm Erik Clemons, Governor Dannel Malloy’s recent nominee for a position on the State Board of Education.

When Governor Malloy appointed Erik Clemons to the State Board of Education he failed to reveal that Clemons was a founding member of a new charter school in New Haven or that he served, up until recently, on the Board of another New Haven charter school, this one owned by Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain that operates charter schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  When Clemons left the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors he was replaced by an aide that works for Clemons’ company.

In addition, Malloy appears to have intentionally kept secret the fact that Erik Clemons’ company received a lucrative, no-bid contract that is funded by the State Department of Education, the very board that Malloy has appointed him to serve on. The State Board of Education is required to monitor this contract and could continue to fund it in the years ahead.

As reported in previous Wait, What? articles, this incredible story dates back to May 7, 2014 when Governor Malloy’s political appointees to the Connecticut State Board of Education voted to adopt a “Turnaround Plan for the Lincoln-Bassett Elementary School in New Haven.

The plan REQUIRED that the New Haven School System contract with Erik Clemons’ Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT).  Erik Clemmons is the founding executive of ConnCAT and his compensation package is well in excess of $100,000 a year.

The Turnaround Plan read;

“While Boost! Will continue to deliver community resources to students at Lincoln-Bassestt, the Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) shall serve as the schools’s anchor partner for afterschool programing.”

The Turnaround Plan required that the New Haven Public Schools “initiate a performance-based contract with ConnCAT by May 27, 2014.”

As a result of the State Board of Education’s action, the New Haven Board of Education approved Agreement 649-14 with Clemons’ Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (ConnCAT) to “provide after-school programming, family and community engagement programs and school environment transformation at Lincoln-Bassett School from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.  The funds to pay for the $302,197.50 contract came from the State Department of Education’s “School Turnaround Program.”

A second contract (Agreement 478-13) between the New Haven Board of Education and ConnCAT, again using State Turnaround Program funds, authorized an additional $214,930.50 to pay for ConnCAT activities form July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016.

This annual contract is expected to be extended, yet again, in the summer of 2016.

However the ethical issues challenging Erik Clemons ability to serve on the State Board of Education go well beyond the no-bid contract that remains under the purview of the State Board.

Considering Clemons’ close relationship with the charter school industry, he shouldn’t be voting on any issue related to the oversight and funding of charter schools in Connecticut.

Furthermore, since the “Turnaround School” process was manipulated to grant Clemons a no-bid contract, he certainly shouldn’t be voting on any turnaround plans for any schools in New Haven or any other city.

Considering his company’s contract with the New Haven Public Schools will depend on adequate funding from the State of Connecticut, Clemons shouldn’t be voting on any issue that will provide New Haven schools with funding.

In Malloy’ world of “power politics,” it may be understandable that he wants to reward the charter school industry and its lobbying front group, ConnCAN, but the students, parents, teachers and citizens of Connecticut deserve better.

With the Connecticut General Assembly voting on Mr. Clemons’ appointment as early as tomorrow, the question is whether state legislators will stand with their constituents by supporting proper ethical standards for elected or appointed officials or will they throw ethics aside and vote in favor of Malloy’s nominee for the State Board of Education?

More about this issue can be found in the following articles, a number of them written or co-written with fellow education advocate and commentator Wendy Lecker.

Malloy turns to charter school industry for names to appoint to the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 3-5-16)

CT legislature’s nomination committee votes 10 to 4 today to confirm Erik Clemons to State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-18-16)

It’s a CONFLICT OF INTEREST to serve on the State Board of Education while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year via the State Department of Education (Wait, What? 2-17-16)

Company run by Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education collects $517,128 in funds allocated by the State Board of Education. (Wait, What? 2-16-16)

New State Board of Education member collects multi-million dollar contract via State Board of Education (Wait, What? 1-5-16)

Malloy gives Charter School Industry another seat on the CT State Board of Education (Wait, What? 12-23-15)

Yes, CT State Department of Education Officials’ behavior was rude and appalling!

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Last Friday’s Wait, What? article, Incredulous: Watching CT Department of Education officials lecture school administrators on how to mislead parents, reported on the incredible meeting in which public officials from Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education lectured a group of school administrators about how to STOP  parents from opting their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC testing scheme and then quickly shut down the meeting when a parent stood up to explain why many people feel so strongly about the significant problems associated with the SBAC testing craze,

As the post explained:

“Just when I thought I had truly seen everything when it comes to the arrogance, elitism, audacity and contemptuousness of those associated with the corporate funded “Education Reform” effort, I witnessed something even more breathtakingly incredible this past Monday at the Connecticut State Department of Education.

It has taken the week to even begin to be able to put into words what I and a handful of other parents and public school advocates witnessed.  In fact, I wouldn’t have believed it, had I not seen it for myself.”

Highlighting the utter absurdity of the entire event was the presentation of a 27 slide PowerPoint presentation that these public servants used to “educate” local school officials about how to communicate with students, parents, teachers and their communities.

On one slide, the State Department returned what appears to be their favorite graphic, an upside down Maslow’s Triangle.

However, rather than use the triangle to explain the quintessential hierarchy of needs, the PR oriented State Department of Education officials used it to instruct superintendents how to “tailor your communication to the needs of families regarding annual assessment.”

At the lowest tip of the triangle were, “Families who are strongly opposed to annual assessment and refuse participation.”

The Deputy Commission compared this group to people who don’t want their children to learn about evolution. (A pretty hostile and ignorant statement if I ever head one)

The State Department of Education’s instructions were;

Provide year round factual information

Be respectful of the family’s stance on assessment

Offer large, small or 1:1 group learning opportunities

Be open to ongoing discussion

But then, at end of the meeting, when a parent actually rose to discuss her concerns, it turned out that the last thing these public officials intended was to actually be respectful or open to discussion.

You can watch a clip of the Deputy Commissioner’s response to the parent at: https://youtu.be/XA3cX3Z8Qnk

In a MUST READ commentary piece published in today’s CT Mirror, lawyer and parent advocate Deborah G. Stevenson describes the scene in greater detail,

Parents’ rights group: Education officials’ behavior rude and appalling (By Deborah Stevenson)

As part of Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell’s “leadership strategies,” designed to urge superintendents to “encourage” parents to have their children take the SBAC test rather than to opt out, the commissioner called in superintendents from public school districts across the state to the department’s Hartford headquarters for a “training session” on how effectively to communicate with parents.

Facing reduced participation in the SBAC test, the commissioner deemed it necessary to give the superintendents more “tools” to persuade parents to allow their children to take the test.  Among the “tools,” the Commissioner informed the superintendents that if their school district’s participation rate fell below 95 percent, the district would be subject to dire consequences, including the loss of federal funding and the lowering of the ranking of the district moving it closer to a state takeover.

This despite the fact that the Commissioner of Education recently  acknowledged in testimony before the legislature’s Education Committee that parents do have a Constitutionally protected right to refuse to allow their children to take the test. Yet, that right is not being respected when the Commissioner threatens parents, schools, and school districts  with punishment for exercising that right.

When the commissioner called the superintendents for more “training” to increase the participation rates, naturally parents were curious to find out about what the “training” consisted of and sought to find out.

Some noteworthy things happened both before and after the training session about which the public should be aware:

  • Parents politely notified the State Department of Education, days in advance, that they planned to attend the “training session”.
  • While the Freedom of Information Act (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 1-225 and Sec. 1-200) states that “meetings of all public agencies shall be open to the public,” and defines public agency as “including any committee of, or created by, any such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official,” and defines “meeting” as “any hearing or other proceeding of a public agency…to discuss or act upon a matter over which the public agency has supervision control, jurisdiction or advisory power,” nonetheless, the State Department of Education attempted to keep the “training session” for superintendents closed to the public, stating it “is not a venue for members of the general public to participate.”
  • Instead, the State Department of Education referred parents elsewhere, telling them that they could “utilize the public comment section during the State Board of Education meeting to voice opinions, ideas and concerns.”
  • The State Department of Education eventually changed its mind about keeping the meeting closed, but notified only one parent of that decision, and did so only five hours before the meeting was to take place. Consequently, only a few parents got that message upon such short notice and were able to attend.
  • Upon arrival at the meeting, those parents were told that they were not allowed to speak at the meeting, and that they were expected to sit quietly and simply observe.
  • The meeting commenced uneventfully and continued for an hour and a half.
  • Those parents in attendance, dutifully and politely, did as they were requested and sat quietly and simply observed until the presentation to the superintendents ended and the superintendents had no further questions.
  • As the deputy commissioner was stating her last words ending the meeting, one parent stood up and thanked the department for its presentation. That parent was allowed to speak, and the thanks offered was accepted.
  • During the presentation, the deputy commissioner expressed to the superintendents that they were to ask parents why they were refusing to allow their children to take the SBAC test. When the parent who stood up after the meeting ended to thank the department attempted to explain why parents refuse to allow their children to take the test, the deputy commissioner stood up abruptly and abrasively interrupted the speaker calling an immediate halt to the meeting, commenting, “See, this is why we shouldn’t have let them in” and she threatened to call security. At that point, the superintendents turned their backs on the parent and exited the room.
  • In effect, the parents acted with patience and respect, quietly observed and listened intently throughout the entire meeting until it had concluded.
  • The Deputy Commissioner of Education, and the superintendents, on the other hand, after being instructed for an hour and a half on how to effectively communicate with parents, quietly observed and listened only for a matter of seconds to the parent, interrupted her, turned their backs to her, and promptly walked out of the room.

Clearly the State Department of Education, and the superintendents, need much more work on their communication skills.  Certainly, lessons in civility also wouldn’t hurt.

One wonders why the State Department of Education was so fearful of what the parent had to say that it was necessary to cut her off and threaten to call security.

Apparently, communication with parents is only a one way street.

It would be wise for the State Department of Education to remember that its members work for the public, and that parents, not the government, have a fundamental Constitutional right to the upbringing and education of their children.

One would at least hope that the department offers an explanation, or an apology, for its most egregious behavior. If it does not, one can only hope the legislature will conduct a thorough investigation.

Deborah G. Stevenson is counsel for the Connecticut Parents’ Rights Coalition.

Bridgeport Board of Education member Maria Pereira slams Malloy/ConnCAN plan to undermine local school boards

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Bridgeport’s Maria Pereira has been one of the most powerful voices fighting on behalf of parents and local residents in the battle to defeat Governor Dannel Malloy’s ongoing efforts to privatize public education through the massive expansion of charter schools and the Malloy administration’s strategies to destroy local control of schools, undermine the role of parents and teachers, and turn public schools into Common Core testing factories.

In response to the outrageous provisions of HB 5551, Maria Pereira submitted the following testimony to the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee, which is holding a public hearing on the latest maneuver by Malloy and the corporate education reform group, ConnCAN, to strip local citizens of their most fundamental and Constitutional right to oversee local public education.

Pereira writes;

I am urgently writing to you regarding this outrageous and completely undemocratic revision to the Commissioner’s Network of Schools.

I cannot speak for any other municipality, but as someone born and raised in Bridgeport that received my entire K-12 public education from the Bridgeport Public Schools, a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education, the lead plaintiff in the CT Supreme Court decision which ruled the takeover of the BPS in 2011 was illegal, and an absolute defender of democracy and true public education in Bridgeport, I ask every single one of you to oppose this blatant power grab which undoubtedly is backed by our Fairfield County billionaires, millionaires, Wall Street executives, ConnCAN, FES, CERC, Northeast Charter Schools, etc.

The residents of Bridgeport have been absolutely clear on the issue of democracy, an elected school board, and local control. Although FORMER Mayor Finch and his billionaire/millionaire supporters spent close to $600,000 in November 2012 to approve a change to our Charter eliminating an elected BOE and granting the Mayor sole authority to appoint our BOE, the voters soundly rejected this initiative at the polls. The Bridgeport community came together to fund a lawsuit to remove the ” Michael Jordan of Education Reform” Paul Vallas as our Superintendent. Bridgeport accomplished what Chicago, New Orleans and Philadelphia could not.  Many of us to this day firmly believe Paul Vallas  was brought to Bridgeport to convert our entire public school system to charter schools.

Should Bill 5551 pass, the Commissioner of Education will have sole authority to choose an UNLIMITED amount of schools in the bottom 5% to enter the Commissioner’s Network for an UNLIMITED period of time without the approval of the elected school board, or the turnaround committee which apparently would now be appointed by the Commissioner of Education. The School Governance Councils are completely eliminated from any involvement in this critical decision.

Do you think it is a coincidence this Bill is being introduced in the first year where the developmentally inappropriate SBAC test scores, which is based on the incredibly flawed Common Core standards, are being used to measure school performance? The SBAC cut scores were specifically chosen to ensure between 60-70% of our students failed which certainly impacts the number of schools that meet the criteria to qualify for the Commissioner’s Network Schools.

The Turnaround Committee serves in an “advisory” capacity only. The agreement between the DOE and the BOE is NOT decided by the local elected board but by the Turnaround Committee. Should the Turnaround Committee vote to reject the plan, the Commissioner of Education will have sole authority to circumvent the Turnaround Committee’s decision. How convenient.

During a potential “planning year” the Commissioner may designate a “receiver” or “ANY other entity to operate the commissioner’s network school.” These “designees” may be granted “the powers of the superintendent and school board” and reports directly to the commissioner. The Commissioner of Ed. has sole authority to identify a ‘receiver,” “school leader” or “operator” to oversee schools in the commissioner’s network.”

The Commissioner of Ed. also has sole authority to withhold funds from a local school district, and the piece de resistance; they have sole authority to CLOSE a school and reassign those students.

BILL 5551 is an absolute insult to DEMOCRACY, ELECTED school boards, and LOCAL control.

The legislature has willingly and knowingly severely underfunded urban school districts like Bridgeport for decades, but now wants to potentially point their finger at those very same cities and claim they are at fault for the performance of their public schools while allowing the proliferation of charter schools,  which this year alone drained $5 million dollars from the BPS.

Those who live the realities of cities like Bridgeport every day, and have dedicated their lives to the well-being of our BPS students know what is best for our children, not those who work in Hartford. As a legislator, do you believe that the legislators of Massachusetts could possibly know what is in the best interest of CT when compared to you? Our urban school districts aren’t struggling because school administrators and dedicated staff don’t know what they are doing. They are struggling because of severe and chronic underfunding and because of social issues most suburban districts will never face.

This Bill is an insult to every resident, taxpayer, parent, grandparent, and educator that lives and breathes Bridgeport every day. Therefore I urge all of you to vehemently reject its passing.

As Malloy Admin seeks massive new powers to take over local schools, two Windham parents explain what takeover actually means

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Yesterday’s Wait, What Post — WARNING Connecticut – They are coming for your schools and your democratic rights! — was A Breaking News Alert from Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker.

Please Read if you haven’t already at http://jonathanpelto.com/2016/03/06/warning-connecticut-coming-schools-democratic-rights/

Today  – Monday, March 7, 2016 the Education Committee will be holding a public hearing on HB 5551, a new proposed bill that would grant Governor Malloy and his administration unprecedented and far-reaching powers to take over local public schools, undermine democratically elected school boards, suspend existing Connecticut laws and union contracts and unilaterally institute policies without the input from parents, teachers, school administrators, local elected officials and citizens.

Such a measure should be unconstitutional.  It certainly violates the most basic principle of democracy and local control of education.

In response to this new proposal, two Windham, Connecticut parents speak out and explain what happened when the state of Connecticut took over the Windham Public Schools.

This is a MUST READ for every legislator and voter in Connecticut

Testimony of Dr. Mary Gallucci, Windham Parent;

As a parent of two children attending Windham Public Schools, I wish to testify regarding the negative effects of the Commissioner’s Network.  One of my sons was at Windham Middle School when it was admitted into the Network.  My husband was on the Turnaround Committee that completed a plan for the school, tailored to the needs of our community.  Teachers played a crucial role in formulating a plan appropriate for our students, among whom are many bilingual children. Unfortunately, many of the most important features of the plan, such as extended learning time in core subjects and a longer school day to include enrichment in art, music, and academic tutoring, were never funded at adequate levels by the state.  In requiring a longer school day but by not paying teachers enough additional salary, Windham teachers (who are among the lowest paid in the state) ended up earning the lowest pay for the longest day.  Although the plan specified that additional math teachers and tutors should be hired, this did not occur—at first due to shortages in these areas among job candidates; later due to the state-appointed Special Master’s introduction of Teach for America, which brought corps members with no particular specialty and no education background; and, finally, because of the persistent lack of funds.

The goals of the Commissioner’s Network appeared to be to circumvent collective bargaining agreements; to hire outside consultants such as Mass Insight; and to increase the amount of time devoted to a bewildering variety of standardized test packages and pilots (some estimate that there are 37 different standardized tests administered per student in certain grades).  During the first two years of Windham Middle School’s membership in the Commissioner’s Network, teacher, staff, and administrator turnover reached a new high, while student morale and “achievement” declined significantly.  At the same time, outside agencies, lobbyists, and others attempted to bring charter schools into the district in order to drain badly needed monies from public schools to private charter management companies and consultants.

I am disheartened and alarmed to see that a bill to expand such a questionable (if not harmful) Network is before the Education Committee.  Committee members and legislators should do a more thorough examination of the effects of the interventions, such as on Milner School in Hartford, Curiale in Bridgeport, and Windham Middle School in Windham, for a start.  The Committee should also be mindful of the longer history of attempts to waive or suspend laws enacted by our legislature.  I am incensed that, if this bill is passed:

Not later than July 1, 2016, the commissioner shall identify a standard set of waivers from laws that hinder the ability of the Department of Education, or its designee, to effectively implement the provisions of this subsection in a commissioner’s network school.

How can this be legal, let alone moral?  Historically, the suspension of law is associated with martial law, and martial law is typically exercised by tyrants and despots.  Poor children and children of color already suffer from insufficient academic resources; they attend inadequately maintained school buildings; and they are often taught by the lowest-paid and least experienced teachers.  Now the State of Connecticut is going to take the protections of law away from them?  Such an outrage is a blatant example of oppression and would never be allowed in wealthier, whiter school districts—nor should it be.  Such tactics belong in the annals of history, to which tyranny, slavery, racism, and other forms of oppression should be relegated, for the purposes of study and as negative examples.

My son’s school has not been elevated out of poverty, lack of resources, high teacher and staff turnover, and low morale due to its time in the Commissioner’s Network.  I ask that you, elected representatives, stand with the children of poor communities and, rather than siphon off state monies, promote researched-based and humane reforms for our schools.  Do not strip poor children and their families of laws and legal protections just because well-funded lobbyists would like you to do so.

Testimony of Dr. Jerry Phillips, Windham Parent

It is my understanding that the Committee on Education for the Connecticut General Assembly is being asked to consider a bill that proposes the expansion (and deregulated operation) of the Commissioner’s Network, established to promote the turnaround of “low-performing schools” in the State of Connecticut. The General Assembly conceived of the Commissioner’s Network as a partnership between the State and the local educational district: the State would provide additional resources and managerial leadership whereas the local district would supply the human creativity and energy needed to put the turnaround plan into effect. It was assumed by those who crafted the legislation that “local knowledge” was an invaluable factor in designing appropriate turnaround models, as officers at the State Department of Education could not be expected to have the same degree of familiarity with the problems on the ground as the local educators and parents and other key agents in the local community. It was clear that the legislature intended to preserve the ethos of community participation in local education democracy, even as the local education board conceded sovereignty to the State in managing the turnaround schools in question. However, it might well be asked if the legislative intent to preserve democracy actually achieved that result when the law regarding the Commissioner’s Network went into effect.

I had the privilege to serve on the turnaround committee that devised a plan for Windham Middle School, as the school was brought into the Commissioner’s Network. As I’m sure you are aware, Windham is an economically distressed community, with powerful needs in bilingual programming and in Special Education. Like other urban communities in the State of Connecticut, Windham has a range of social and economic problems that impacts the systemic delivery of: unemployment and underemployment are by no means negligible; home foreclosures are not uncommon; and the local tax base is woefully inadequate to provide for schools at the appropriate level. I don’t mean to provide here a sociology or economics lesson, I am only trying to paint you a portrait of the truly difficult circumstances in which Windham schools are obliged to operate, and the real challenges these pose to school turnarounds.

The Windham Middle School turnaround Committee made a good faith effort to come up with a plan that best served our children, while also meeting the formal requirements of the Commissioner’s Network. But the process was protracted and stressful to all concerned, because powerful figures at the State Department of Education (including the Commissioner) disavowed the recommendations of the Committee and tried to steer the turnaround plan in directions they preferred. This rejection of democracy could have been justified had we devised a plan that was entirely hopeless, with no chance of success; but such was not the case. Our plan had precedent in other turnaround models, and it seemed to us most appropriate to Windham’s specific needs. There was no evidence to be had to prove its likely ineffectiveness.

It soon became clear that the State Department of Education was resistant to our turnaround plan on purely ideological grounds, because our plan made no room for privatizing initiatives of any sort. As a committee, we were convinced that a Charter School Management Company or any such player in the new educational market would not have the expertise, the long-term commitment or the social vision to aid in turning around the local Middle School.  There is a weighty and still growing body of evidence that Charter Schools do no better—and often worse—than local education districts in improving student achievement at “low performing schools.” But the question is larger than just student achievement: Charter School Management Companies, as private entities, have a devastating and demoralizing effect on local democracy. Indeed,  the establishment of a charter school in place of a public institution has the real practical effect of diminishing the rights of parents to be involved in their children’s education; it curtails the parents’ standing as “citizens” and leaves them only as “consumers” or “stakeholders,” at best. Once the market takes over from community, as the guardian of education, in too many instances it becomes a matter of “buyer beware.”  The scandals in Connecticut and all over the nation regarding the financial, ethical and pedagogical practices of Charter School Management Companies are too common to be lightly dismissed. It’s revealing that the Windham Middle School turnaround Committee was invited (by State officials) to consider a “lead partner” turnaround plan with Jumoke-FUSE, presided over by the disgraced Michael Sharpe. The children in Windham have significant and urgent needs, and playing roulette with their education—that is, gambling on finding competent and trustworthy charter school operators—is not a reasonable or moral course of action

Now comes ConnCAN, the major sponsor of HB 5551, asking for more deregulation and for more schools to be included in the Commissioner’s Network. It’s clear that giving the State Department of Education more power to grant waivers on budgeting, staffing, programming and so on is a not only a recipe for allowing in all sorts of bad possibilities, it also represents an assault on the local control of schools, as the State (not being bound by certain statutory mandates) could, in essence, allow things to be done at Commissioner’s Network Schools that most parents would profoundly disagree with, and yet the parents would have no form of redress. At this point, Connecticut would de facto have two educational systems: one in which parents were active participants with a voice, the other in which parents would be voiceless and could be actively ignored. It does not help matters that many of the schools in the Commissioner’s Network are overwhelmingly populated by ethnic and racial minorities. The perception and reality of “separate and unequal” schools would be hard to disavow. ConnCAN and other charter schools advocates wish to empower the State to undertake “high level interventions” in the name of “bold changes” and dramatic positive effects. But in truth the State of Connecticut already has considerable sovereign powers in the field of education. Giving more power to the State (by leave of the Commissioner’s Network) would be tantamount to the complete disenfranchisement of local communities. In other words, it would be profound and unwarranted assault on democracy.

No one doubts that the education system in Connecticut is in need of certain reforms, but school privatization (with the beneficiaries as Charter School Management Companies of dubious competence) does not exhaust all reform measures. For example, it’s clear that the funding structure in Connecticut is unjust and unsustainable and one can easily see that a more efficient educational system would involve more school regionalization, as well as other initiatives.

Horace Mann, the great American educator who played such a vital role in helping to establish common schools, once said: “I believe in the existence of a great, immutable principle…the absolute right of every human being that comes into the world to an education; and which, of course, proves the correlative duty of every government to see that the means of that education are provided for all.” It is my sincere conviction that the expansion and deregulation of the Commissioner’s Network (called for by ConnCAN) will not meet the standard outlined by Horace Mann. And for this reason I urge you to reject the passage of the proposed bill.

WARNING Connecticut – They are coming for your schools and your democratic rights!


A Breaking News Alert from Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker

When it comes to public education in Connecticut, a new piece of legislation before the Connecticut General Assembly (H.B. 5551) would be the most far-reaching power grab in state history – a direct attack on local control of schools, our democracy and Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers, local school officials and public schools.

The legislation would enable Malloy’s political appointees on the State Board of Education to takeover individual schools in a district, remove the control of the elected board of education, “suspend laws” and eliminate the role of school governance councils which are the parent’s voice in school “turnaround plans.

The bill is nothing short of an authoritarian maneuver by grossly expanding the Commissioner of Education’s powers under the Commissioner’s Network.  The bill destroys the fundamental role of local control because it allows the state to indefinitely take over schools and even entire districts, without a vote of local citizens.

The bill removes any time limit on Commissioner’s Network Schools. It removes the cap on how many Commissioner’s Network schools can be taken over by the state.  It removes the right of the local community to appoint their own turnaround committee.  It eliminates the requirement that local parents, through their school governance council are included in the process.

This plan contravenes all the evidence on state takeovers.

State takeovers of schools and districts have been an abject failure across the country.

In Newark and Paterson New Jersey, where state takeover has been in effect for years, the districts are plagued by fiscal crises, lack of improvement in student outcomes and charges of mismanagement.

A recent report issued by the Center for Popular Democracy found that state takeovers in New Orleans, Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, and Tennessee’s Achievement School District, have all been plagued by mismanagement, instability and high turnover and hiring of inexperienced teachers, and virtually no student improvement. https://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/National%20Takeover%20Ed%20Report.pdf

In fact, even the federal government has found that states do not have the expertise to successfully turn around low-performing schools.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/most-states-lacked-expertise-to-improve-worst-schools/2015/05/05/0eb82b98-f35f-11e4-bcc4-e8141e5eb0c9_story.html

Connecticut’s track record on taking over schools is anything but stellar. In fact, one of the first Commissioner’s Network schools, handed over to Jumoke/FUSE failed miserably under the supposed watchful eye of the Commissioner and State Board of Education.  The charter network admitted it was “winging it,” hiring ex-convicts, mismanaging funds and allowing student test scores to drop precipitously.  Even the current principal, Karen Lott, admitted that the takeover was a failure, with only 13% of Milner’s students scoring proficient in Language Arts and a shocking 7% in Math.  Lott declared that what the school needed was experienced staff, additional resources and community support, particularly wrap-around social services. http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Failure-as-a-model-for-Connecticut-6267220.php.

None of these inputs require state takeover. In fact takeovers have been characterized by hiring inexperienced teachers, and disenfranchising the local community.

Where would such an un-American, anti-democracy and anti-local control idea come from?

This bill is virtually a carbon copy of ConnCAN’s proposal for the Commissioner’s Network schools. http://webiva-downton.s3.amazonaws.com/696/7c/c/2766/255496644-ConnCAN-Turnaround-Report.pdf  ConnCAN cherry picked and misrepresented certain “case studies” and, as per usual, passed it off as “research.”

For an example of ConnCAN’s misrepresentation of its case studies, read the truth about Lawrence Massachusetts here. http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-collateral-damage-of-a-district-6295743.php

ConnCAN not only wrote a proposal shockingly identical to this bill , the charter lobby also sponsored a “forum” for legislators in 2015 where it invited Ms. Lott of the failed Milner school and others, such as the deputy superintendent of Lawrence to speak to legislators.

However the true examples of following  ConnCAN’s prescription can be found in places like Detroit, where the emergency manager left under a cloud and Detroit’s schools are on the brink of collapse, and in Tennessee where the superintendent, Chris Barbic, resigned, admitting turnaround was  “much harder”  than he thought.

Why would ConnCAN, the charter lobby, push this proposal?

Because state takeovers have been characterized by conversion of public schools into charter schools; schools unaccountable to elected boards, with little duty to report on its finances, yet they receive millions in public funds. Charters also tend to exclude a district’s neediest children, without any accountability for these practices.

This is the second recent example of the Malloy administration ceding governmental tasks to ConnCAN.  As was reported Friday, the Malloy administration allowed ConnCAN to choose at least one candidate for State Board of Education. (link)

Now, ConnCAN is writing legislation to determine the fate of our poorest schools.  ConnCAN is a lobby for charter schools.  The world outside Hartford recognizes ConnCAN as a charlatan organization. It has received the Bunkum Award for shoddy research from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado.

It is beyond troubling that our education policy is being set by this lobbying front group.

Without any evidence that destroying local control will help students (in fact with most evidence pointing the other way) why would we cede more power to the Commissioner?

Why do we think people who live and work in poor communities do not know what their children and schools need?  As longtime teacher, professor and writer Mike Rose has written,

“We have a long-standing shameful tendency in America to attribute all sorts of pathologies to the poor… We seem willing to accept remedies for the poor that we are not willing to accept for anyone else.”

Our neighbors in our poorest communities know what their children need.  Their teachers and principals and all the dedicated staff in their schools know, too.  In fact, since early February they have been testifying, along with real national experts, in front of Judge Moukawsher in the CCJEF case about what their schools need to improve: smaller classes, more teachers, social workers, prek, wraparound services for kids and families, adequate facilities and more.

As Milner’s principal stated, struggling schools need money, a stable staff and community support. State takeover will not accomplish these goals.

What will?

Providing schools the supports Ms. Lott mentions; supports that have been proven to improve schools. https://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Community-Schools-Layout_e.pdf

How do we provide these resources?

Several recent longitudinal studies prove that school finance reform where states substantially increase funding for struggling schools raises achievement. http://eml.berkeley.edu/~jrothst/workingpapers/LRS_schoolfinance_feb2016.pdf; http://www.nber.org/papers/w20847.

The legislature can truly impact student performance by settling the CCJEF case and enacting real finance reform to fund Connecticut schools adequately.

What the legislature should NOT do is replicate failure. And that is what Raised Bill 5551 will do.

Governor Malloy and his administration are apparently doing the bidding of ConnCAN and the rest of the charter school industry.

It is the legislature’s duty to act on behalf of the children in this state, on behalf of taxpayers, and on behalf of democracy.

Connecticut needs elected officials with integrity and clarity of vision, once and for all, to examine the evidence and protect the interests, not of high-priced lobbyists, but of those children most in need of protection.

For more about how ConnCAN, the charter school industry and the corporate education reformers that are corrupting Connecticut politics and policy read – Malloy turns to charter school industry for names to appoint to the CT State Board of Education

The General Assembly’s Education Committee will be holding a public hearing on this outrageous proposed law on Monday, March 7, 2016 starting at 11am in the Legislative Office Building

House Bill 5551:

Testimony can be submitted online via [email protected]

Citizens can also contact the leadership of the Education Committee;

Senate Chair Democrat Gayle Slossberg – http://www.senatedems.ct.gov/Slossberg-mailform.php

House Chair Democrat Andrew Fleischmann – [email protected]

Senate Ranking Member Republican Toni Boucher – [email protected]

House Ranking Member Republican Gail Laveielle – [email protected]

Education Committee

Legislative Office Building, Room 3100

Hartford, CT 06106

(860) 240‑0420

To find contact information for your legislators go to: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp

Malloy turns to charter school industry for names to appoint to the CT State Board of Education

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The Controversy goes well beyond the legal and ethical issues with Malloy’s recent nominee to the State Board of Education.

This week the Connecticut General Assembly is expected to vote on Governor Dannel Malloy’s appointment of Erik Clemons to the State Board of Education, despite what appears to be a major conflict of interest that should be keeping Mr. Clemons off the board that sets policy for Connecticut public schools and is responsible for the oversight of the companies that own and operate Connecticut’s charter schools at a cost of over $100 million a year to Connecticut taxpayers.

Clemons is not only a founding Board Member of the recently opened New Haven Montessori Charter School and served, up until last year, as a Board Member of one of the Achievement First, Inc. charter schools in New Haven, Clemons’s company was given a no-bid contract that was approved and funded by the Connecticut Board of Education, a contract that has already netted Clemons’ company more than $500,000 with a lot more public funds to come.

As a member of the Connecticut Board of Education Erik Clemons will be in a position to financially reward himself, the charter schools he is or has been associated with and his friends and colleagues in the charter school industry.

For Background See:

Company run by Malloy appointee to the State Board of Education collects $517,128 in funds allocated by the State Board of Education

It’s a CONFLICT OF INTEREST to serve on the State Board of Education while collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year via the State Department of Education 

CT legislature’s nomination committee votes 10 to 4 today to confirm Erik Clemons to State Board of Education.

However, the most serious problem with Malloy’s appointment of Clemons goes well beyond the nominee and reaches right into the Governor’s Office.

In a breaking investigative story, fellow education advocate and columnist Wendy Lecker lays out the troubling details about the “special relationship” between Malloy and those that own, operate and lobby for charter schools in the state.

In here weekend piece in the Stamford Advocate, Wendy Lecker writes;

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s 2016-17 education budget bears a striking resemblance to New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s: cutting public education funding while increasing funding to privately run charter schools. This budget proposal not only harms children, by cutting vital programs such as special education services, reading tutors and after-school programs, but, as legislators point out, it hurts local taxpayers since municipalities will be forced to fill in the gaps.

Connecticut charters have a questionable track record. They have been cited for abusive discipline practices, such as suspending 5-year-olds and violating the civil rights of students with disabilities, failing to serve needy populations, such as English Language Learners and students with disabilities, and even financial fraud, mismanagement and self-dealing scandals.

Like Malloy, his State Board of Education (SBE) routinely turns a blind eye to charter misdeeds, authorizing charters without proper investigation, reauthorizing charters when they fail to meet requirements in the law and their charter agreements- even allowing the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain to run a Commissioner’s Network school into the ground under the Board’s “supervision.”

In 2013, Malloy appointed Andrea Comer to the SBE, prompting conflict of interest criticism. Comer was the chief operating officer of the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain which, like all charters, must come before the board for authorization, oversight and funding. In the wake of the Jumoke/FUSE scandal, Comer was forced to resign.

Recent charter school scandals forced Connecticut legislators institute some anemic controls over the state board last year.

One might wonder why Malloy favors charters to the detriment of public schools. As blogger-former legislator Jonathan Pelto has uncovered, Malloy’s biggest contributors are charter founders and supporters.

Recent emails reveal the depth to which Malloy is beholden to the charter industry. In November, Malloy appointed three new members to the SBE. One, Erik Clemons, raised concerns for Pelto, as Clemons is a charter founder and board member, and a vendor with the State Department of Education. His company has received hundreds of thousands of dollars through a no-bid contract as part of the State Department of Education’s Turnaround Plan for New Haven’s Lincoln-Bassett elementary school- a plan that SBE approved and the Department funded. Once again, Malloy nominated someone to the State Board who has clear conflicts of interest.

Contrast this with Nevada, where the vice president of the State Board of Education just resigned to avoid a conflict of interest because she intends to work with a charter organization that might contract with the state.

Pelto submitted a freedom of information request to the governor’s office related to the nomination of Mr. Clemons. The emails he received revealed a shocking fact: Malloy relied on the charter lobby, ConnCAN, to find him appointees to Connecticut’s State Board of Education.

An email from Meg Green, of the governor’s office, to Liam Sweeney, ConnCAN’s head of lobbying, reads:

“Hey Liam, I’m doing outreach to some of the folks you recommended for appointments. Do you have good phone numbers for any of these people?”

The state then redacted the email to only show Clemons’ name. Other emails between ConnCAN and the governor’s office were similarly redacted. Thus, we do not know what else was communicated.

We do know several disturbing facts. Despite the fiasco that was Andrea Comer’s appointment, the governor not only appointed another charter operative to the State Board of Education, but actually let the charter lobby assume a governmental function by naming appointees to the board.

The emails also reveal that the governor knew Clemons’ status as a vendor of the State Department of Education posed a potential conflict of interest problem. In one email, Elizabeth Donohue, Malloy’s Director of Government Affairs, writes Meg Green, regarding Erik Clemons, “if he is vendor of the state that is less good.” Yet Malloy appointed Erik Clemons anyway.

Without any mention that Clemons was handpicked by the charter industry, Malloy presented Clemons to the Legislature, where a confirmation vote will occur within weeks.

Gov. Malloy has consistently refused to adequately fund public schools; a stance he now must defend in the landmark school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell, on trial currently in Hartford. At the same time, he has dramatically increased public funding for privately owned charter schools, which only serve 1 percent of Connecticut students, without imposing any accountability. But now, Malloy has gone too far in ceding to the charter lobby the responsibility to appoint members to the state board responsible for regulating the charter schools themselves. This corruption, at the expense of taxpayers and our children, must end.


You can read and comment on Wendy Lecker’s article at:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Malloy-Christie-on-similar-6870576.php

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

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Governor Dannel Malloy’s press office just issued a “major announcement” concerning the Governor’s position on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test.

No, Malloy and his administration are NOT making the Common Core SBAC testing scheme less unfair.

No, Malloy and his administration are NOT making the Common Core SBAC testing scheme less inappropriate.

No, Malloy and his administration are NOT making the Common Core SBAC testing scheme less discriminatory.

Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL trying to force students to take a test that is designed to fail a  significant percentage of Connecticut’s children because it includes content that has not been taught.

Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL using the SBAC tests to label children and inaccurately “rank” the quality of education in Connecticut’s schools and school districts.

Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL using the SBAC test as part of a massive effort to collect data on children without parent’s understanding or permission.

Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL using the SBAC test results as an inappropriate criteria in Malloy’s teacher evaluation program.

And Yes, Malloy and his administration ARE STILL CONTINUING their unethical, immoral and illegal effort to bully parents into believing that they do not have the fundamental and inalienable right to opt their children out of the disastrous Common Core SBAC testing scam.

In fact, the mandatory meeting to “instruct” targeted superintendents on how to keep parents from opting their children out of the SBAC tests is still taking place at the State Department of Education on Monday, February 29, 2016 at 4pm

Districts that had higher levels of opt out rates because they were honest with parents about the issue are still being required to submit a “Corrective Action” plan on how those school administrators will ensure parents don’t opt out this year.

The Malloy administration is still going to punish school districts in which more than 5 percent of parents opt their children out by withholding federal funds that are intended to pay for extra services that poor children need.

And the Malloy administration is still pushing their new legislative proposal to repeal local budget flexibility for selected school districts that aren’t able to force 95 percent of parents to allow their children to take the absurd SBAC test

So what is Malloy and his administration doing?

The press release speaks for itself.

Malloy and his Commissioner of Education are announcing that they will  eliminate one section of the Common Core SBAC test, thereby leaving some of the worst sections intact, and then using a whole lot of rhetoric to make sh*t up!

Here is Governor Dannel Malloy’s “major” announcement


New Step to Limit Smarter Balanced Exam Builds on Effort to Help Districts Spend Less Time Testing and More Time Teaching

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Dannel P. Malloy and State Department of Education (SDE) Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell today announced the implementation of a new step that will reduce testing time and expand learning time for more than 200,000 Connecticut children across over 800 schools.  Changes to the application of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), impacting every student in grades three through eight, is as part of a broader effort to help districts spend less time testing students and more time teaching.

Currently in grades three through eight, there are two components of the SBAC exam.  The first is a computer adaptive test – the portion of the assessment done electronically with adaptive questions based on student responses – and the second is a performance task, such as essays.  As part of the new steps to reduce state testing, the performance tasks, which are often duplicative with in-class work, will be eliminated.  The change could increase learning time by up to an hour and forty-five minutes for every grade three through eight student.

The change is intended to increase student learning time, decrease student anxiety, assuage family concerns about testing, and limit over testing.

“We are working as hard as possible to be smart about testing, limit anxiety, and boost learning time.  Tests are important – they help us measure ourselves and pinpoint how to improve.  But where we find duplication, we should act.  We’re going to do just that with this new step,” Governor Malloy said.  “When we know an exam won’t improve our understanding of a student’s standing, and we know it won’t necessarily improve teaching quality, then we should eliminate it so it doesn’t burden our students, teachers, and families.  It’s our goal to be smart about how we test and ensure we find the right balance.  This decision is a step in that direction.”

“By rightsizing the Smarter Balanced Assessment to Connecticut’s needs, we are not only saving time and money, but we are improving the teaching and learning process,” Commissioner Wentzell said.  “Assessments are important tools that help us deliver on our promise to our kids and ensure that we are holding all of our students to high standards.”

SDE has studied the issue extensively and found that the computer only tests remain very reliable without the performance task portion of the grade three through eight English Language Arts exam.

The decision to reduce the length of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the latest move in SDE’s ongoing efforts to reduce the amount of standardized testing for public school students.  Other initiatives include the

decision announced in the summer to eliminate duplicative testing at the high school level by replacing the Smarter Balanced exam with the SAT for eleventh graders.  This particular change is expected to save Connecticut as much as $1 million dollars in test implementation costs.

Additionally, SDE is working with school districts to gather and share innovative strategies for reducing assessment time.  Last year, the state agency awarded $428,253 to 48 districts as part of the Assessment Reduction grant program.  Districts received awards up to $10,000 each.  The grants aimed to help districts comprehensively analyze their tests to ensure that they reflect district priorities, remain aligned to new state standards, provide maximum value, and are not redundant with other assessments, with the ultimate aim of reducing testing time wherever possible.

Governor Malloy and Commissioner Wentzell made today’s announcement during a visit to Woodside Intermediate School in Cromwell, where they highlighted the district’s effective use of its grant. In Cromwell, utilizing state grants, the district assembled a team to analyze assessments in grades kindergarten through five and were able to reduce duplicative testing by 13 percent.  More importantly, they also strengthened their assessment system for those grades by better aligning assessments to standards.

Under federal law, Connecticut must administer end-of-year tests to all students in grades three to eight and once in high school.  This change does not require Board of Education or legislative approval.

Check back for more details on Governor Malloy’s hollow political gambit on the Common Core SBAC farce.

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

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Updated – Please note the correct location for the meeting to instruct superintendents on how to prevent parents from opting out.  It is not at the LOB, but it is taking place at the Department of Education, State Office Building, 165 Capitol Avenue, Hartford, CT. on Monday, February 29, 2016 from 3:00pm to 4:30pm

Look Out Connecticut!

The forces behind the corporate education reform industry and their effort to turn public schools into little more than testing factories are getting even more mean-spirited and out-of-control.

On Friday afternoon – February 19, 2016 – Governor Dannel Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman’s Commissioner of Education wrote to Connecticut school superintendents who failed to follow the Malloy administration’s directive and “allowed” too many parents to opt their children out of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) testing scheme last spring.

Put aside, for a moment, the reality that there is no federal or state law, regulation or legal policy that prevents a parent from refusing to have their child participate in a standardized testing scam that is intentionally designed to fail a significant number, if not a majority, of all public school students.

Because – when it comes to the “MY WAY OR NO WAY” Malloy administration, nothing is going to stand in the way of their ongoing effort to push forward with their irresponsible standardized testing program, all while undermining a parent’s fundamental and inalienable right to protect their children from the destructive SBAC tests.

Writing on behalf of state government, the head of the Connecticut Department of Education has now informed local school superintendents that they must STOP parents from opting their children out of the SBAC tests or else!

Or Else?

And the “or else” is that the state will punish the students, teachers and taxpayers of any school district in which more than five percent of parents opt their children out of that district’s SBAC testing program.

Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell informed districts with high opt-out rates that school administrators must attend a mandatory meeting at the Legislative Office Building on February 29, 2016 and that those same districts must submit a “Corrective Action Plan” to the Department of Education by March 11, 2016 on how they intend to stop parents from opting out.

The Commissioner begins her latest tirade by dismissing the legitimate concerns that parents, teachers and education experts have raised about the absurd SBAC testing program by opining;

“We understand that your 2014-15 district participation is likely an aberration.”

No Commissioner Wentzell, as a parent who has opted a child out of the testing farce and a resident of a school district that is being targeted for punishment by the State Department of Education, I assure you that our concerns are not an “aberration” in any way whatsoever.

In fact, not only does a parent have a Constitutionally guaranteed and inalienable right to refuse to have their child participate in the standardized testing frenzy, the decision to do so is a thoughtful, appropriate and understandable response after assessing the impact that the Common Core standardized testing mania is having on our students, teachers, public schools and taxpayers.

Then Commissioner Wentzell goes on to tell the targeted superintendents;

However, since participation in 2014-15 was substantially below the standard, please submit a detailed action plan by March 11, 2016 as to the steps the district is taking/will take to more fully engage teachers, students, parents, and the entire school community around the purpose and nature of the state assessment. As stated in our approved plan with the USED, federal funds will be withheld if all participation rates are not at or above 90 percent in 2015-16.

To support you in this endeavor, the Connecticut State Department of Education is hosting a roundtable discussion on family and community engagement strategies on Monday, February 29, 2016 from 3:00 – 4:30 at the State Office Building in Hartford. We ask that you and at least two other individuals from the district office attend this meeting. Please email Mary Anne Butler at [email protected] the names of the attendees so that we may arrange for parking.

We remain confident that your positive efforts will help to ensure that the 95 percent participation rate standard is achieved in 2015-16.

The Malloy administration’s edict is certainly direct, albeit unethical and abusive.

If local school leaders are not successful in stopping parents from utilizing their right to opt their children out of the SBAC testing, the Malloy administration will “withhold” funds from that school district, thereby reducing the amount of money that schools need to provide their students with the education that they deserve, and are entitled to, under the Connecticut Constitution.

Connecticut citizens should take special note of the deceitful way in which the Department of Education fails to reveal just what “funds” they intend to withhold from the “bad” school districts.

According to memos sent to superintendents, but not yet released to the public, Malloy and Wyman’s Education Department will be withholding what are called Title 1 Federal Funds – those are the dollars that come through a fifty year-old federal program that provides states with extra money to help poor children succeed in school.

Yup, you read that right

If local superintendents don’t stop at least 95% of their parents from opting their children out of the inappropriate SBAC testing program, the state of Connecticut will withhold funds intended to provide poor children with the extra support they need to overcome the significant and systemic challenges that they face.

Even in these troubling times, it is a stark commentary on the mindset of our state’s elected officials.

Their policy, strategies and tactics must not go unchallenged.

Malloy, Wyman and every Connecticut state senator and state representative should be required to step forward and defend their actions.

Parents should also consider attending Commissioner Wentzell’s “mandatory meeting” on February 29, 2016 to dispel any notion that elected and appointed officials will not be held accountable for this outrage.

Wentzell’s Mandatory Meeting for Targeted School Districts:

State Office Building – Department of Education

Monday, February 29, 2016

3:00pm – 4:30pm

For more about this issue read;

“My daughter will not be taking the “state mandated” NEW SAT on March 2nd 2016.” (Wait, What? Blog 1/28/2016) 

Some CT superintendents continue to violate parents’ civil rights and their own Code of Responsibility  (Wait, What? Blog 2/15/2016) 

LOOK OUT!  If parents opt their children out, the Malloy administration will cut funding for poor children (Wait, What? Blog 2/10/16) 

Other Wait, What? Blog Posts about the SBAC and opt-out issue including articles written by Wendy Lecker, Sarah Darer Littman, John Bestor and others can be found by searching on Wait, What? 




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