Malloy vetoes bill requiring that education commissioner have education experience


Dannel shows his true stripes yet again…

The CT Newsjunkie headline reads- Union Leader ‘Stunned’ By Malloy Veto of Standards For Education Commish while the CT Mirror exclaims Malloy vetoes qualifications for education commissioner

The leader of Connecticut’s teacher unions are stunned because the Right Honorable Governor Dannel P. Malloy decided to veto legislation that would have required that the state education commissioners have “a strong classroom background, something his first education commissioner lacked.”

The legislation passed the Education Committee 32 to 0

It passed the State Senate 36 – 0

And it passed the Connecticut House of Representatives  138-5

Only one Democratic legislator voted against the bill in the House.

But Dannel Malloy vetoed it anyway.

The story?

Harken back just over one year ago, and the Connecticut AFL-CIO’s was holding its political endorsing convention.

As a candidate attempting to petition on to the ballot, the union refused to allow me to address the delegates.

Instead, as the CT Mirror called it, the convention was “a two-day infomercial promoting the re-election of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, with one carefully choreographed note of discord: A rebuke to the Democratic governor’s choice of Stefan Pryor as commissioner of education.”

Before formally endorsing Malloy, the statewide labor federation adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for a requirement that an education commissioner hold the same credential as a school superintendent, a standard that Pryor does not meet.

“We’re hoping the governor’s listening,” said Melodie Peters, the president of AFT-Connecticut, one of the state’s two major teachers’ unions.

The resolution drawn up by the AFT, which separately endorsed Malloy ahead of the AFL-CIO convention, was a message to a Democratic governor and to labor’s rank-and-file. It was meant as a gentle rebuke to Malloy, not a rejection; a way to soothe educators, not provoke them.

Pryor never was mentioned by name, but he has become a pressure-relief valve for labor, which acknowledges a need to draw anger away from the governor. Peters agreed when asked if the resolution was a second-term message to Malloy about a need for a new commissioner.

Now, a year later, having failed to testify against the union’s proposed bill or even voice any opposition what-so-ever, Malloy vetoed the very concept  was submitted as a result of that AFL-CIO resolution.

As the CT Mirror explained last year,

Teacher unrest has given Jonathan Pelto, an education blogger and former Democratic state legislator, an opening to try to organize a third-party run for governor.

Malloy told the delegates Monday in a well-received speech that he’s made mistakes, but he stopped far short of apologizing for what teachers still say was a gratuitous and deliberate insult.

The task for union leaders has been to manage the anger of the rank-and-file, sharply contrasting the overall labor record of Connecticut’s first Democratic governor in a generation with the hostility to labor and collective bargaining by GOP governors in once-union friendly states like Wisconsin and Michigan.


A procession of delegates stepped up to microphones Tuesday to speak in favor the resolution.

“Education is a profession, not a hobby,” said Edward Leavy of AFT Local 4200 A.

The delegates cheered.

Anna Montalvo, the president of AFSCME Local 1522, which represents paraprofessionals in Bridgeport, said a superintendent and education commissioner should meet standards, as do her members.

The delegates cheered again.

But the message of the convention eventually circled back to a simple equation: What would be best for labor, the re-election of a Democratic governor or a Republican?

Sharon Palmer, a former AFT-Connecticut president who is Malloy’s labor commissioner, vouched for the governor’s commitment to labor.

“Let me say from up close and personal, he is a good boss,” Palmer said. “Sometimes he has a sharp tongue, but more often than not he uses that sharp tongue to fight off those who would diminish us.”

Palmer, Peters and Randi Weingarten, the national AFT president who was the second-day keynote speaker, all reminded the members of Malloy’s support for a broad labor agenda and his defense of locked out health workers represented by AFT at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

Weingarten ended the convention with a loud, passionate pitch for Malloy. She acknowledged rough spots in AFT’s relationship with Malloy over tenure.

“Yeah, I don’t like some of the things he’s said, either,” Weingarten said. “But what he’s done, he’s increased funding for K-12, increased funding by seven percent for K-12, making Connecticut the second-highest education spender in the country since the recession.”

She called Pelto a friend who has some important things to say, but his candidacy is a distraction and a danger that can only draw votes away from Malloy.


She told reporters after the convention that she spoke by telephone the previous day with Pelto, who had complained he wasn’t invited to speak. Only the major-party endorsed candidates addressed the convention.

Weingarten said third-party candidates can play an important role, and she has supported some in the past.

She said the stakes in Connecticut are too high: “The stakes here are whether you’re going to have a Dan Malloy or a Tom Foley as governor, whether you are going to have a Connecticut that acts as Connecticut or that emulates Wisconsin.”

As to why Dannel Malloy would veto the bill out of the blue?

According to the CT Newsjunkie,

In his veto message, Malloy said the legislation “encroaches on the purview” of the chief executive and would prevent them from picking “the best candidate to lead the department.”

Connecticut Education Association Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said he was “stunned” by the veto. He said it’s good public policy that doesn’t take away any of the governor’s authority to choose a qualified individual for the job.

Just like teachers have to be certified, the state’s Education Commissioner should have minimum qualifications, Waxenberg said.

He said his members will be angry about this veto and will speak with legislative leaders to “seriously consider an override session.”


AFT Connecticut President Jan Hochadel said she’s “disappointed” in the veto, but to Malloy’s credit he heard their voices and “chose a new commissioner with extensive background in the classroom.”

Hochadel added: “We expect that he and future governors would follow this example in recommending leadership for the state’s education agency. Our state’s students and their parents deserve nothing less.”

But Malloy made it clear in his veto message that he should have the ability to hire the most qualified candidate, regardless of their background.

“Open-mindedness and flexibility are paramount in a search for the right candidate who can best respond to the educational challenges that face our state,” Malloy said in his veto message. “The establishment of qualification for the Commissioner of Education in statute closes the door on a broad pool of talented and diverse leaders who would otherwise be eligible and could foster greatness in our schools.”

Malloy said he’s concerned it would unintentionally reduce the diversity of future commissioner applicant polls, since representation of African American and Hispanic teachers and administrators remains disproportionately low.

As the legislative report (JR report) explains, when the Education Committee held its public hearing, the testimony was almost unanimous in favor of the bill.

Melodie Peters, President, AFT Connecticut AFL-CIO spoke;

Ms. Peters and AFT Connecticut support the proposed bill citing the role of the Commissioner in providing, “direction and guidance to districts, schools and educators.” AFT believes the credibility of the Commissioner of Education depends, in part, on the shared experience of the Commissioner with teachers, administrators, and superintendents.”

Dr. Anne Jellison, Chair, Connecticut Association of School Administrators spoke:

“Dr. Jellison testified in favor noting that it is critical for the Commissioner of Education to have credibility and expertise among all stakeholders in Connecticut’s education system. She included that an effective, credible Commissioner needs “first-hand knowledge” of Connecticut schools and understands the impact of not only day-to-day situations but how policies impact the school environment.”

Jeff Leake, Vice President, Connecticut Education Association spoke:

“Mr. Leake testified in support of the bill, commenting that many of the members of the CEA are also in favor of a person with a background in the education field serving as Commissioner. The CEA feels the bill may be too basic in the required qualifications but stressed to the committee that their organization is looking for a commissioner who understands the qualities necessary to be a true educator.”

Lori Pelletier, Executive Secretary Treasurer, Connecticut AFL-CIO spoke:

“Ms. Pelletier testified in support of the bill. The position of the AFL-CIO is that high standards that have been set for teachers, administrators, and superintendents should also be a standard for the Commissioner of Education.”

But there was one person who rose to oppose the requirement that Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education have substantive educational experience…

Jennifer Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, ConnCAN:

“ConnCAN opposes the proposed bill because they believe the requirements laid out in the bill for the Commissioner of Education would severely limit Connecticut’s ability to recruit talent and would, “unnecessarily exclude qualified and experienced candidates from being considered for appointment as Education Commissioner.”

So there you go…

Kelly Donnelly to become Chief of Staff for Connecticut Department of Education


The key role of Chief of Staff for Governor Dannel Malloy’s State Department of Education will go to Kelly Donnelly who was brought in from New Jersey in December 2012 to serves as former Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor’s PR person.

Although Donnelly has no work experience in public education and her only education policy experience is as the agency’s communications person, multiple sources confirm that Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzel will by-pass numerous qualified professional staff to hand the Chief of Staff duties to Donnelly.

Donnelly will be replacing Adam Goldfarb, who resigned earlier this year soon after Stefan Pryor left Connecticut to become Rhode Island’s Economic Development Commissioner.

Goldfarb, a Yale Law School graduate, came with Pryor from New Jersey.  Goldfarb served as one of Pryor’s policy advisors in Newark, New Jersey and spent time as Pryor’s intern when Pryor worked for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.

Goldfarb was initially brought in under the title of Executive Assistant, but then immediately was made Chief of Staff with a starting salary of $99,000, up 33 percent from what he was making as Pryor’s assistant in New Jersey.  Goldfarb finished up his duty as a Connecticut public servant earlier this year with a salary of $116,000

You can read more about Pryor and Goldfarb at Oh, it’s good to be King, or at least Commissioner of Education and What is Commissioner Pryor’s Chief of Staff doing as the Vice President of a Charter School Board of Directors?

Donnelly was hired as Pryor’s Communication Director with a starting salary of $82,000.  It is unclear what her salary will be as the State Department of Education’s Chief of Staff.

Prior to coming to Connecticut, most of Donnelly’s experience was with political campaigns in New Jersey and Long Island although she did spend nearly two years in 2010-2011 with 1st Light Energy Inc, where she, “Oversaw residential and commercial photovoltaic (solar system) installations for the entire scope of the project.”

Donnelly, who is from Edison, New Jersey graduated from Notre Dame in 2002 with a BA in Liberal Studies.

One of Donnelly’s most recent responsibilities was serving as the agency’s spokesperson during the Malloy administration’s ongoing attempt to mislead, harass and bully parents who were trying to opt their children out of the unfair and inappropriate Common Core SBAC tests.  Her quotes can be found via any search about Connecticut’s SBAC testing scheme.

Grassroots Lobbying Charter School Style – $14k for sandwiches, $87k for buses


Calling themselves a “grassroots movement” in support of Governor Dannel Malloy’s plan to use taxpayer money to open two new charter schools while making historic cuts to Connecticut’s public schools, the New York based charter school industry group known as “Families for Excellent Schools Inc./Coalition for Every Child” paid at least $87,000 to rent buses to bring in charter school parents and students from as far away as New York and Boston for the pro-charter school rally that took place at the Connecticut State Capitol last week.

According to the group’s most recent filing with the State Ethics Commission (filed yesterday), the corporate funded education reform advocacy front group also spent $14,000 for subway sandwiches and $6,771 to Staples to pay for the signs demanding that Connecticut legislators hand over nearly $21 million in scarce taxpayer money so that the infamous Steve Perry can open a publicly funded, but privately owned charter school in Bridgeport and a Bronx, New York charter school chain can save Stamford by opening up a charter school there.

Although parents who “volunteer” for the rallies sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools Inc. are apparently given “parent stipends” for their efforts, the charter industry advocacy group failed to list any payments for the parents who were bussed in for the Connecticut demonstration.

According to their website, Families for Excellent Schools, Inc. “serves more than 50,000 families from over 90 schools in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.”

The website adds, “Founded in 2011 through a partnership between schools and families, Families for Excellent Schools has built power in communities by engaging parents in the transformation of their schools.”

The group, of course, fails to explain that since it was founded, Families for Excellent Schools Inc. has collected an estimated $25 million from wealthy individuals and foundations to pay for its lobbying and advocacy work.

In New York State Families for Excellent Schools Inc. has become the single largest lobbying entity in the State of New York spending nearly $10 million in 2014 alone to support the funding and expansion of charter schools.  [See Pro-charter group sets lobby record.]  However, Families for Excellent Schools has repeatedly refused to release a list of its donors.

What is known is that among the group’s major sponsors is the Walton Family, owners of Walmart.

According to the foundation’s reports, “The Walton Family Foundation supports Families for Excellent Schools in its work to train parents to create and run advocacy efforts to improve school quality and give every student access to an excellent education.”

The use of “parent stipends” to induce charter school families to attend rallies has been one of the more controversial tactics used by Families for Excellent Schools.

The organization’s 2011 federal tax form stated that they spent $98,795 on “parent stipends.” Subsequent reports buried that spending item in other expenses but a 2012 American Enterprise Institute publication verified the groups use of parent stipends noting,

“other groups, such as Families for Excellent Schools, use side payments—financial stipends of $250–$1,000 per year—to give parents an incentive to participate in mobilization and advocacy efforts.”

Another way the charter school industry has successfully “persuaded” parents to attend their rallies is to actually close down their charter schools on the day of the rally.  The Nation magazine recently reported on New York rallies sponsored by Families for Excellent Schools noting,

“The protests have benefitted from the controversial decision of charter operators like Success Academy to shut down their schools, bus thousands of students to protests and notify parents that they “must” come and protest. “It was cut and dry, they tell us if we can’t go to the rally, our kids won’t have anywhere to go,” said one Success Academy parent, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, “So you have to find childcare for them or take off work for their charter school propaganda.”

Although Families for Excellent Schools is new to Connecticut, it is closely associated with Connecticut’s original charter school advocacy group, ConnCAN.

In addition, Families for Excellent Schools receives funding from Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain co-founded by Governor Malloy’s initial Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.  Achievement First Inc. is based in New Haven with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  As a result of Malloy’s pro-charter school agenda, Achievement First, Inc. benefited more than any other charter school company in Connecticut over the past four years.

And when it comes to lobbying and advocating for charter schools — The sky is the limit.

Since Malloy introduced his corporate education reform initiative in 2012, charter school and education reform organizations have spent well over $7 million on lobbying and advertising – a record-breaking amount for Connecticut.

In just the first four months of the 2015 legislative session, Families for Excellent Schools has spent over $668,000 on its lobbying and advertising in support of Malloy’s plan to add two more charter schools in Connecticut. More than half a dozen other charter school groups have also spent funds to support Malloy’s plan.

To ensure the desired level of access to Connecticut’s elected officials; Families for Excellent Schools retained the services of both Governor Malloy’s chief adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, and Malloy’s former spokesman, Andrew Doba.

Of the money spent this year, more than $75,000 was paid to Occhiogrosso’s firm and another $133,000 to the New York public relations company that hired Malloy’s spokesman (Doba) when he left Malloy’s office four months ago.

For more coverage about the charter school industry rally check out – Charter Students Rally Lawmakers To Restore Funding (Newsjunkie), Charter School Lobbying: Where Is Money Coming From? (Hartford Courant), Hundreds Rally At Capitol For Expanding Charter Schools (Hartford Courant) and Aggressive charter school campaign descends on the Capitol (CT Mirror)

Educators 4 Excellence – Because teachers NEED their own “Education Reform” front group


Some teachers and public school advocates have heard about Educators 4 Excellence, aka E4E.  For those that haven’t, you probably will as the organization continues to expand across the country.

Calling themselves Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), they claim to speak for teachers – although most E4E organizers don’t have more than a year or so of teaching experience – and what little actual teaching experience they have is usually the result of a short stint with Teach for America.

But the New York-based Educators 4 Excellence, originally created in 2010 using funds from the Gates Foundation, managed to pull in over $7.4 million from the corporate education reform industry in their first two years of operation.

Among the “teacher advocacy group’s” major funders is Education Reform Now, another corporate funded advocacy group that spends its money promoting charter schools and an end to tenure and “seniority-based layoff.”

In 2010 Education Reform Now ran a rather infamous television commercial in New York State that included a “parent” saying, “Stop listening to the teachers union.”

E4E’s fundraising has reportedly skyrocketed since 2012 allowing them to expand, including into Connecticut.

The Gates Foundation alone dropped another $3,000,695 into E4E’s coffers in July 2013.

Here in Connecticut…

When Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy took to the microphone on April 17, 2015 to announce that he was dropping the word “interim” from Dianna Wentzell’s title as “interim” Commissioner of Education, Educators 4 Excellence was quick to announce their support for the Common Core and Common Core testing aficionado writing,

“Dr. Roberge-Wentzell…was a critical member of [former Education] Commissioner Pryor’s team, which worked to secure funding for struggling schools where resources are needed most….We look forward to working with her in the years ahead…”

The reference that Wentzell deserved to be appointed Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education because she was a “critical member of Commissioner Pryor’s team,” the co-founder of the Achievement First, Inc. Charter School Management Company, reveals a lot about Educators 4 Excellence’s mission and purpose.  Public funding for charter schools skyrocketed as a result of Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor’s policies over the last three years, with Pryor’s charter school management company receiving the lions’ share of the money.

With co-CEOs each enjoying compensation packages in excess of $150,000, Educators 4 Excellence explains their reason for existence by saying,

“For far too long, education policy has been created without a critical voice at the table – the voice of classroom teachers. Educators 4 Excellence (E4E), a teacher-led organization, is changing this dynamic by placing the voices of teachers at the forefront of the conversations that shape our classrooms and careers.”

Educators for Excellence now has chapters in Connecticut, Chicago, Los Angeles and Minnesota and the have pledged to expand even further.

According to their “official” version of events, Educators 4 Excellence (E4E) began,

“As a group of New York teachers who wanted to change the top-down approach to policy-making, which largely alienated teachers like us from crucial decisions that shaped our classrooms and careers.”

Their propaganda fails to explain that their initial funding came in November 2010 when the Gates Foundation funneled $160,000 through Stand for Children, a multi-million dollar corporate education front group to set up “Educators 4 Excellence.”

According to the grant announcement, the Gates Foundation explained that the group was being funded to, “build an authentic, alternate teacher voice.”

Stand for Children is a leading player in the “education reform” movement, with a special focus on moving corporate funds into political campaigns in order to reward candidates who support their cause and punish those who aren’t on the school privatization  bandwagon.

Jonah Edelman, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Stand for Children, says the organization now has eleven state affiliates (AZ, CO, IL, IN, LA, MA, OK, OR, TN, TX, and WA).

According to Edelman’s biography,

“Jonah’s personal stand for children began during college, when he taught a six year-old bilingual child to read.”

Like a number of his fellow corporate education reform industry elite, Edelman graduated from Yale University (Class of ‘92) and attended Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship.

If that wasn’t enough for the financiers of the education reform frenzy, the Chairperson of Stand for Children’s Board of Directors is Emma Bloomberg, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s daughter.

When Bridgeport Connecticut Mayor Bill Finch engaged in his failed attempt to do away with Bridgeport’s democratically elected board of education and replace it with one that he would appoint, a coalition of corporate education reform groups and corporate elite, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, dropped in enough campaign donations to make it the most expensive charter revision campaign in Connecticut history.

In Connecticut, Educators 4 Excellence use a New York public relations firm, the same PR firm that collected much of the money in the failed Bridgeport campaign and has been used by a number of other education reform groups in Connecticut to engage in advertising in favor of Malloy’s education reform initiative.

A Connecticut E4E press release out last summer by the New York firm opened with, “Teachers, Joined by Bridgeport Superintendent Rabinowitz, Call for Needed, Pro-Student Improvements in Professional Development at E4E Roll-out Event.”

The press release went on to read,

June 11, 2014 (Bridgeport, CT) — Educators 4 Excellence, a national teacher-led organization that seeks to elevate the voices of teachers in education policy discussions, formally launched its new chapter in Connecticut Wednesday with a kick-off event in Bridgeport and a call for sweeping changes to existing professional development. This major policy proposal, written by a team of working Bridgeport public school classroom teachers, proposes a number of changes to this pressing issue. These include increasing the opportunities for teachers to weigh in on and even lead professional development topics and personalizing the experience so that trainings better meet the needs of schools and individuals. The full proposal can be seen HERE.”

The press release adds,

“Over the past several months, a team of nine E4E-CT Bridgeport members has been developing recommendations to improve the quality of their professional development. The recommendations, which they released Wednesday, seek to inject the ideas of actual classroom teachers into the policy changes the Superintendent is currently considering.”

The release conveniently made no mention of E4E’s funders or whether any of the advocacy group’s money was spent developing or lobbying for their “teacher led changes.”

This year Educators 4 Excellence is ramping up their Connecticut presence.

The corporate education reform industry group recently advertised for a Vice President of Regional Operations, which the posting explained may be housed in Connecticut.

According to the advertisement for the job, the Vice President of Regional Operations responsibilities will include, “Designing and leading high level issue based advocacy campaigns.”

To ensure a proper understanding of life as a classroom teacher, the organization lists the preferred qualifications to be a,

“Bachelor’s degree and at least one year of professional experience as a Pre K-12 classroom teacher preferred; some form of teaching, school-based professional experience, student-based professional experience or previous work with educational non-profits.”

The required skills include, “Political savvy and keen interest in/understanding of education policy, the education reform movement broadly, and the power and politics of the education landscape both locally and nationally.

E4E explains the right candidate must also have “Tenacity” and “grit.”

In Connecticut, the organization is also looking for a new Executive Director for Connecticut,  whose job will be to oversee Connecticut’s E4E operation.

According to the job post, lobbying legislators will be one of the Executive Director’s responsibilities, along with working to, “Establish E4E-CT as a go to source for the opinions and perspectives of progressive educators on issues that impact Connecticut’s classrooms.”

Again the entity says that, “At least one year of experience serving as a Pre K-12 classroom teacher” is preferred,” as well as the requirement for “Tenacity” and “grit.”

Apparently E4E is also looking for a Managing Director of Outreach in Connecticut.

The job postings don’t explain where the present Executive Director Ranjana Reddy is heading, although after a sting with TFA she headed to Newark, New Jersey to help create Rise Academy charter school, a position she left to attend Yale Law School.

At Yale she proudly reports that she worked for John White, who took over from Paul Vallas in New Orleans and Commissioner Stephen Pryor in Connecticut.  Her biography explains that when working for Pryor she, “spearheaded the writing of Connecticut’s No Child Left Behind waiver.”

From charter school founder, to Yale, to writing Connecticut’s NCLB waiver… What a testament to the corporate education reform.

And as the saying goes, all this is just the tip of the iceberg –

Just wait till you hear what else E4E is up to in Connecticut.

You can read more about E4E in Connecticut via the following Wait, What? posts Another faux pro-public education group targets Connecticut (12/18/12) and  Teacher-led organization that gives teachers a meaningful voice in policy is expanding in CT! (5/23/13)

Common Core Champion on Fast Track to become CT’s next Commissioner of Education


Sources at the State Capital report that Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education will be directed to name Nathan D. Quesnel as Connecticut’s next Commissioner of Education.  The appointment would be pushed through as early as the next State Board of Education meeting on April 6, 2015 or at a special meeting for the purpose of rubber-stamping Malloy’s choice.

Quesnel, who became East Hartford’s School Superintendent in August 2012 and received his state 093 certification allowing him to to continue to serve as a superintendent of schools in the spring of 2013 has been one of the most outspoken proponents of Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform initiatives including the controversial Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing scheme.

Just last August, Superintendent Quesnel told the Middletown Patch news outlet that, “The East Hartford Public Schools are utilizing Alliance District funding [the extra state taxpayer funds his town was given] to support early literacy — particularly for getting needed materials for students in grades K-2…These resources provide Common Core aligned instruction that help students reach grade level by Grade 3.”

Common Core aligned instruction since no one ever learned to read before the corporate-funded Common Core came along…

Earlier in 2014, Malloy named Nathan Quesnel to be the co-chair of the Governor’s Common Core Task Force which was supposed to conduct an independent assessment of the state’s Common Core policies but was, in fact, nothing more than an effort to deflect criticism away from Malloy’s aggressive support for the Common Core and Common Core testing while his administration continue to rush forward with the implementation of the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium SBAC testing scam.

The day after Malloy appointed Quesnel to head up his Common Core Task Force, the East Hartford Superintendent was supposed to speak at a special legislative hearing on March 12, 2104 in favor of the Governor’s policies and the Common Core.

However, recognizing that it would look bad if people knew that Malloy’s Task Force Chairman had already made up his mind on the Common Core issues, someone associated with the Governor intervened to try and hide Quesnel’s role.

Quesnel’s name was removed from the testimony he had written and the Chairman of the East Hartford Board of Education was given the task of reading it.

But alas for Malloy and his pro-Common Core supporters, someone had already uploaded the version of the testimony Quesnel was supposed to have given.

Even more interesting, the final official testimony that was submitted included a variety of changes that were made after Quesnel’s name was removed from the text.  Note that words underlined in red were added to the testimony and words in red and that have a line running through them were deleted from his testimony.

Who changed the testimony isn’t clear but a “close reading” of the testimony makes it extremely clear that Superintendent Quesnel was scheduled to testify and his testimony was nothing short of a cheerleading session for Malloy and his anti-public education, anti-teacher, anti-parent policies.

Instead of testifying that day, Quesnel dutifully chaired the Governor’s “independent” assessment of the Common Core, an assessment that – lo and behold – reported back that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor were doing great and that there were no problems or barriers to be seen when it came to implementing the Common Core and its absurd testing system.

And now to complete the loop, Nathan Quesnel appears to be in line to become Malloy’s next Commissioner of Education where he can continue the ongoing effort to mislead Connecticut’s parents, students, teachers and the public about the inappropriate corporate education reform initiatives that are undermining public schools, restricting local control and denigrating teachers and the teaching profession.

Remember, when reading the testimony Nathan Quesnel was supposed to give, but didn’t, the words underlined in red were added to his testimony and the words in red that are lined through were removed.

TESTIMONY Committee Bill No. 5078


Good morning/afternoon Madame Chairperson, Mr. Chairman, Representative McCrory, Representative Bye, Rep. Ackert, Rep. Boucher and all members of the Education Committee here today afternoon Representatives thank you for the opportunity to testify on the matter before you. My name is  Jeffrey Currey and I am the Chairman for the East Hartford Board of Education. Nathan Quesnel and I am the Superintendent for East Hartford Public Schools.

I am here today to express our concern regarding Committee Bill No. 5078, an act imposing a moratorium on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. I am here to represent both the district I serve and, the roughly 7200 students that attend our 16 schools in our schools, and my professional judgment as a leader of a large urban school district.

 I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum, instruction or pedagogy reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

 With this being said,  I have serious concerns regarding the direction that this bill, if approved, would take  regarding the progress in terms of the progress and change that  we have made in Connecticut and  in particularly, in  East Hartford Public Schools, specifically should this moratorium move forward.. I want to crystalize and make exceedingly clear that supporting this bill will result in education is taking a drastic step back from the growth we have seen over the recent years and a move towards an uncertainty and delay that will negatively impact the lives of the children that are currently in our school systems. While I fully recognize the enormity of the changes going on in education at this moment, and I fully hear the criticism of these changes,, I ask that you also be mindful of this he need for urgency when it comes to dealing with children,  and making sure that we are “doing right” by  Connecticut’s future.

Simply put, I ask you to remember that the Common Core State Standards are simply a national set of standards that were adopted by our great state in 2010.  Guided by these national standards, my district has fully embraced the notion that high expectations for students will result in high outcomes for students. Upon state adoption in 2010, East Hartford Public Schools began immediate work on translating these standards into the fabric of the documents that guide practice on a classroom level throughout the district— our curriculum. While often confused by media or those outside of education, the Common Core is not a curriculum or heavy handed “way to teach.”   The Common Core is not the driving source behind every confusing homework assignment or foundational mathematical quagmire that has gotten so much attention of late. Rather they serve as overarching guides to challenge educators to find consistency of expectation when we talk about delivering on our promise to the next generation of American citizens.  As we have moved forward with revising and writing curriculum that addresses the standards of the Common Core, we have found this process necessarily time and resource intensive— we have been required to retool, rethink and revise some of the very core processes that have been in place in education for a very long time. This has provided the critical insights, disturbances and uneasy conversations that real change always necessitates.

 Specifically in this work, we have East Hartford has focused on developing district expertise regarding the state standards and how our curriculum can become a document that breaks the adage of “if you continue to do what you’ve always done…you will continue to get what you have always gotten…” As I speak here today, I am humbled by the number of high quality teachers, principals, department heads and specialists behind me in my district who believe deeply in where we are going, but have not been able to give this belief voice for a variety of reasons. The moratorium that has been proposed to you today would be an incredible blow to the work that they have begun and fully intend to finish.

Before you heed or put too much stock in the voice of the critic of the Common Core or any of the changes sweeping our country in regards to education reform, I challenge you to carefully listen for their solution. When their solution voice is absent (as it often seems to be) or lacks the sense of urgency that is so necessary when it comes to dealing with the education of  our  children, I  ask  you  to  think  of  the  second  grader  who  will  only  have  second  grade  one  time. Unfortunately, as we are painfully aware, if we are unable to get this second grader the necessary interventions he or she needs, this second grader will continue to struggle in both school and life moving forward. With this picture in mind, are you really willing to argue that we should “slow down?” or stop all together.  When the voice of the critic tells you that the Common Core has taken the joy and imagination out of teaching, I ask you to visit the classrooms I see that are filled with enthusiastic teachers and happy, bright faced students. I ask you to see how our teachers have found creative and engaging ways to work towards critical thinking, higher standards, and yes, access to non-fiction materials. I ask you to take a look at the teachers I see on a daily basis who have been willing to embrace what works and who are able to be honest about what should be and can be done better.  While it certainly should be acknowledged that this work has placed a new level of stress and anxiety on our systems, I challenge you to find a single example of an improving change throughout history that has not had similar impact.  When you pause in the midst of this debate that has become painfully academic and increasingly political, start looking at the issues we face through the eyes of students and parents. This is not a political agenda item— this is the future of our children and our state.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you as the leaders of our great state to rather take a critical look at implementation from the lens of how we could provide greater supports to districts to accomplish the work that has been started.

Rather than a moratorium, I urge you to find ways to make our work more efficient, our changes more coherent and our future successes even brighter. I urge you to continue as you have done over the past three years under the leadership of Governor Malloy, in the past  to support funding through both the Alliance Grant and other channels that have provided my district with a first—a “funded mandate.” I want to thank you for the resource support we have received from your work as legislatures and assure you that the money you have invested to date in this initiative is having early returns in my district. Moving in a different direction will undoubtedly initiate a catastrophic sense of confusion and doubt that will cause long and lasting damage as Connecticut seeks to remain competitive on a national and global scale.

I want to express my appreciation for your awareness and focus on the importance of the changes going on within the world of education. While it is not every day that a discussion of curriculum or instruction reaches the average Connecticut dinner table, I am appreciative of the interest that has lately been placed on the important work of growing Connecticut’s future.

I thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today and for your willingness to be a part of Connecticut’s solution.

Here we go again! Malloy Administration misleads mother on Common Core SBAC Test


Governor Malloy and his administration are continuing to tell Connecticut parents that they do not have the right to opt their children out of the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Test that begins next month.

Even worse, local school districts are using that false information to intimidate Connecticut parents.

Parents — do not let them fool you – you can and should opt your children out of these destructive tests, a set of Common Core standardized exams that are rigged to ensure that up to 7 in 10 children fail.

When Christine Murphy, a resident of Bristol, Connecticut, informed her son’s school that he would not be taking the Common Core SBAC Tests, the assistant principal, on behalf of the superintendent, informed her that she did not have the right to opt her child out of the test.

[School Superintendents!  Stop harassing parents for opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test]

Christine, recognizing that this is still America, reached out to the NBC Trouble Shooters who did a news segment about her attempt to utilize her fundamental right to determine what is best for her child.

Interestingly rather than telling NBC news the truth, the whole truth and nothing be the truth, the spokesperson for Governor Malloy’s Department of Education and the paid lobbyist for one of Connecticut’s Corporate Education Reform Industry groups decided that they would intentionally mislead the mother, NBC news and the people of Connecticut into thinking the mom did not have the right to opt her child out of the Common Core SBAC Test.

Sadly, NBC news fell for the trick and failed to report the truth.

Governor Malloy’s State Department of Education issued a statement which read;

“These laws do not provide a provision for parents to ‘opt-out’ their children from taking state tests. These mandates have been in effect for many years and the State Department of Education, as well as all public schools, must comply.”

– Kelly Donnelly, Connecticut Department of Education

The Malloy administration’s response is at best disingenuous and should more appropriately be called blatantly deceitful considering the reality about parental rights in Connecticut when it comes to the Common Core SBAC Test.

The FACT is there is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the government or local school district to punish parents or their children if the parent refuses to allow their child or children to participate in the Common Core SBAC testing scam.

Yes it is true that Governor Malloy and his administration have been telling parents that they do not have the right to opt their children out.  But those statements are false.

When Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, was finally brought before the General Assembly’s Education Committee on March 12, 2014 to address concerns surrounding the Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing system, Commissioner Pryor admitted that,

“On an individual level, I don’t believe that there’s any specific provision in law regarding consequences… To my knowledge there are no state provisions that are specific, or no federal provisions that are specific to an individual student.”

At the same public hearing, Allan B. Taylor, the Chairperson of the Connecticut State Board of Education stated,

 “There is no law that says they can’t. Certainly no state law that says they can’t. Therefore, residually, presumably they have that right … but that is the parent’s choice, the local district’s choice. The State Department of Education will not be reaching down and sanctioning parents.”

The state and local districts will not be punishing parents and their children because they have no legal right to take any action against parents for removing their children from the Common Core SBAC tests.

What the Connecticut General Statute §10-14n(e) does say is that,

“No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.” 

This means that towns cannot promote or graduate a student on the basis of their Common Core SBAC Test score and they certainly cannot hold back a student or refuse to allow them to graduate based on their Common Core SBAC Test score.

Unfortunately, NBC news failed to do its job.

Rather than push past the political spin coming from the Malloy administration, the reporter simply accepted the misleading statement issued by the Connecticut State Department of Education.

Connecticut citizens deserve better from their government and the media.

You can see the NBC segment by going to

School Superintendents!  Stop harassing parents for opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test


With the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Testing beginning in less than a month, more and more parents are informing their local school districts that they have decided that their children will not be taking the unfair, discriminatory and inappropriate Common Core SBAC tests this year.

Parents who understand the issues associated with the Common Core SBAC Testing Scam are opting their children out.

Despite repeated posts here at Wait, What? and the work of a number of state-wide efforts to inform state and local officials that they must respect a parent’s fundamental right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC Test, a significant number of local school superintendents, and their staff, continue to mislead parents, throw up barriers or harass parents into believing that they have lost their right to protect their children from an unfair test that is rigged to ensure that as many as 7 in 10 children fail.

So once again, let us be clear!

  • There is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that prohibits a parent or guardian from opting their children out of these inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory tests.
  • There is no federal or state law, regulation or policy that allows the government or local school districts to punish parents or their children if the parent refuses to allow their child or children to participate in the Common Core SBAC testing scam.

Not only is there no law, regulation or policy that prohibits parents from opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC test, but although the Malloy administration issued a memo last year instructing superintendents, principals and local school officials on how to mislead parents, when Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education was finally brought before the General Assembly’s Education Committee on March 12, 2014 to address concerns surrounding the Common Core and Common Core SBAC testing system, Commissioner Pryor admitted that,

“On an individual level, I don’t believe that there’s any specific provision in law regarding consequences… To my knowledge there are no state provisions that are specific, or no federal provisions that are specific to an individual student.”

The Chairman of the State Board of Education, Attorney Alan Taylor, agreed with the Commissioner and went even further stating that there was no legal action that the state or school district could take to punish a parent or child who opted out of the Common Core SBAC test.

While a law clarifying that parents have the opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test might be helpful to school officials, and such legislation has been introduced into this year’s General Assembly, the underlying issue would remain the same….A parent’s right to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test cannot denied.

The latest inappropriate effort to mislead parents comes from Bristol Connecticut, where the Assistant Principal of Bristol High School was put into the unenviable position of trying to instruct Chris, a mother of a student at Bristol High School that she could not opt her child out of the Common Core SBAC Test.

Bristol High School’s Assistant Principal wrote;

“Connecticut State Statute mandates that all students take the Smarter Balanced Assessment…No provision has been made to “opt out” of these tests. Dr. Solek our superintendent has instructed that you will need to submit your request in writing outlining your specific reasons for not taking the test. She, in turn, will alert the CT State Department of Education.”

Yes, Connecticut does have a law that states that all students shall take Mastery Test in grades 3-8 and in 11th grade.  However, putting aside the fact that the Common Core SBAC test is hardly a true mastery test, state and local school officials know that, on average, about 3,000 Connecticut public school students have failed to take the Connecticut Mastery Test each and every year.

And the 30,000 students who have failed to take the Connecticut Master Test were not punished and could not have been punished by state or the local school district for failing to take the Mastery Test

State and local education officials also know that Connecticut State Statute 10-14n(e) states,

“No public school may require achievement of a satisfactory score on a mastery examination, or any subsequent retest on a component of such examination as the sole criterion of promotion or graduation.”

If public schools may not require satisfactory achievement on a mastery examination in order to move the child up a grade or graduate, then school districts certainly can’t require an unsatisfactory grade or no grade at all on the mastery test as a requirement to promote or graduate a student.

The notion that students must take the test or else has no basis in law or practice in the state of Connecticut and the abuse of students and their parents by state and local school officials has got to stop.

If Governor Malloy and his Commissioner of Education want to legally prevent parents from opting their children out of the destructive Common Core SBAC Test then they need to introduce legislation to that end and convince a majority of the members of the Connecticut General Assembly to pass a law that forbids parents from opting their children out and providing the state and local districts with a mechanism to punish parents or their children if the students do not take the unfair Common Core SBAC Test.

And while Governor Malloy ponders taking that step, the truth is that this is still America and the reality here in Connecticut is that THERE IS NO LAW that prevents parents from opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC test.

Enough is enough – state and local school officials must stop misleading and harassing parent about their fundamental rights.

If you are told by your school district that you can’t opt your child out of the Common Cores SBAC Test, please send that correspondence here to Wait, What? ([email protected]) so that we can warn other parents in that district.

Other Wait, What? Blog posts about this issue include;

Parents can (and should) consider opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests

Question – Can my child graduate without taking the absurd Common Core SBAC Test?

How much will the absurd Common Core SBAC Test cost Connecticut taxpayers?

ALERT! Parents – the Common Core SBAC Test really is designed to fail your children

In addition, parents can get more information about opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC test via the following links;

United Opt-Out:  Connecticut Guide

Connecticut Against the Common Core – Opting out of Standardized Testing

Connecticut Against the Common Core – Facebook Page

Common Core CriticsConnecticut – Guide to Opting Out

How To Opt Out of Standardized Testing in Connecticut


Parents can (and should) consider opting their children out of the Common Core SBAC Tests


FACT #1:

Connecticut parents and guardians have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Standardized Testing Program

FACT #2:

In addition to all myriad of problems associated with the Common Core Standards, including the concerns that some of those expectations are not developmentally appropriate, the Common Core SBAC Standardized Test is literally designed [rigged] to ensure that the vast majority of students are deemed “failures.”

Late last year, the Malloy administration joined with the other members of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and voted to define the “proficient levels” on the SBAC tests.  The “Cut Scores” were set at a level where about 38 to 44 percent of  elementary and middle school children will meet the so-called “proficiency mark” in English/Language Arts and only 32 -39 percent will reach that mark in Math.

At the same time, SBAC set the cut score for the 11th grade SBAC Common Core Test so that approximately 41 percent will show “proficiency” in English/Language Arts and 33 percent will do so in Math.

This means that the Common Core SBAC Test is designed in such a way as to deem as many as 6 in 10 – and potentially as many as 7 in 10 – children as failures.

The scoring system is nothing short of child abuse.  (For details read: Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is!)

FACT #3:   

While the overall waste of taxpayer money and student instructional time associated with the Common Core SBAC Testing disaster undermines the educational opportunities of every public school student, the testing scheme is particularly discriminatory against children who face English Language barriers, children who have special education needs and children who aren’t “excelling” at one to two grade levels ahead of their classmates.


The only thing that will stop the Common Core and Common Core Testing scam from completely destroying our system of public education will be if our elected officials stand up and fight back against the Corporate Education Reform Industry.

For that to happen, parents need to opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC test and send a loud and powerful message to our elected officials that the time has come to put the word “PUBLIC” back in Public Education.

[More on the legislative effort and legislative heroes in an upcoming post]

Here are the other FACTS Connecticut’s school parents and guardians need to know;

According to Connecticut State law, all public schools must administer the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).  This year the Common Core SBAC test will be given to all students in Grades 3 through 8, and those in Grade 11.

However, there is no federal or state law that prohibits a parent or guardian from opting their children out of these inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory tests.

To repeat:  There is no federal or state law that prohibits a parent or guardian from opting their children out of these inappropriate, unfair and discriminatory tests AND there is no law that allows the government or local school districts to punish parents or their children if the parent refuses to allow their child or children to participate in the Common Core SBAC testing program.

Last year, a directive issued by Governor Dannel Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, instructed local school superintendents and principals that Connecticut parents COULD NOT opt their children out of the Common Core SBAC tests and his memo even provided districts with step by step instructions on how to pressure parents into not utilizing their rights to opt their children out of the tests.

According to the CT Mirror, in an interview with John Dankosky, last spring, on WNPR’s public radio show, “Where We Live” Governor Malloy said that, “federal law restricts students from opting out of taking standardized tests, and if the state were to give students that option, it would put the state at risk of losing millions of federal dollars.”

Malloy’s statement was simply untrue.

When the Chairman of the State Board of Education and Commissioner Pryor were finally brought before the General Assembly’s Education Committee on March 12, 1014 to address concerns surrounding the Common Core and Common Core testing system, Commissioner Pryor admitted that,

On an individual level, I don’t believe that there’s any specific provision in law regarding consequences… To my knowledge there are no state provisions that are specific, or no federal provisions that are specific to an individual student.”

The Chairman of the State Board of Education agreed that there was no legal action that the state or school district could take to punish a parent or child who opted out of the Common Core SBAC test.

While a law clarifying that parents can opt their children out would be helpful, and has been introduced into this year’s General Assembly (more on that soon), a parent’s right to opt their children out cannot be denied.

However, in response to Commissioner Pryor’s directive to local school superintendents, the majority of local schools inappropriately informed parents (and teachers) that students could not opt out of the Common Core SBAC tests.

But regardless of the false information and rhetoric coming from the Malloy administration, parents not only have the fundamental right to opt their children out of the unfair testing program, they should strongly consider doing just that as a way to protect their children, Connecticut’s teachers and our state’s historic commitment to local control of public education.

Finally, after speaking with many local school superintendents and reviewing the correspondence that they sent out to teachers and parents last spring, it is clear that Malloy’s Department of Education also tried to scare local officials into believing that any widespread opt-out or  boycott of the Common Core SBAC test would jeopardize funding for the local school district.

Again, the state government used misinformation in their misplaced and ongoing attempt to mislead local superintendents.

The issue in question is called the “95% Rule”

According to President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), school districts are required to show, every year, that their tests scores are improving and that 95% of all students have taken the standardized tests.

But according the nationally-respected nonprofit, non-partisan, Fair Test organization,

 “No school or district anywhere in the country has ever been penalized for failing to test enough (95%) of its students.

Even more importantly, at least 41 states, including Connecticut, have been given federal waivers that supersede and preempt those provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Instead, Connecticut has chosen to go with a system of categorizing schools based on test scores and a number of other criteria.  According to Connecticut law and regulations, Connecticut categorizes its schools as being (1) Turnaround Schools, (2) Review Schools, (3) Transition Schools, (4) Progressing Schools and (5) Excelling Schools.

Turnaround Schools are defined as the 5% of the lowest performing schools and are subject to state intervention, state takeover, and even a state determination to close them and hand them over to a private charter school company. (The disgraced policy of giving Jumoke Academy control of the Milner School in Hartford and the Dunbar School in Bridgeport)

The next category, according to the State Department of Education, are “Review Schools” and this is where the so-called “95% Rule” might come into play….but not the way the Malloy administration has explained.

Review Schools are, “All schools with [Standardized Test] participation rates less than 95 percent, four-year cohort graduation rates below 60 percent, three-year baseline School Performance Indexes (SPIs) below 64…”

There is no financial punishment for being a “Review School.” In fact, there might even be some financial benefit if the state was actually allocated its funds appropriately.  But even more importantly, a school with a graduation rate of 60% or more has successful proven that it is making progress and no state official would have the audacity to define a school as failing simply because its participate rate fell below 95%, but it was successfully meeting all the other criteria for being a “transitioning school” or “progressing school.”

If parents take the time to examine graduate rates for their schools they will quickly see that the so-called “95% Rule,” is nothing more than a red herring.

As parents look around the nation they will discover that Common Core Testing opt-out and boycott efforts are taking place from sea to shining sea.

In New York States, entire school districts are refusing to even offer the test, a number of courageous teachers in various states are actually refusing to give the unfair and inappropriate Common Core Tests and tens of thousands of parents are stepping up to protect their children by opting them out of the tests.

Connecticut parents should certainly consider doing the same.

In the coming weeks, Wait, What? will be posting more information about how to opt your child out of the Common Core test and the issues surrounding the Common Core SBAC testing fiasco.

For now, here are the primary steps are protecting your children:

Submit a letter to your school principal and your child’s teachers indicating that your child will not be taking the test.

Let them know that you are aware that you are not required to keep your child at home during the testing windows and that your child should be provided with appropriate instructional activities while the Common Core Testing is taking place.

Ask them what arrangements they will make for your child during that time.

Also, here is a sample Opt Out letter follows:

Dear Principal _____________,

Thank you for all you do for my child, ___________ (child’s full name), and for our school.

I am writing to respectfully and formally inform you that ________ is not to take any tests produced by or related to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition (SBAC).

Please note that this is not a “request” to be excused from the tests produced by or related to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition (SBAC).

I am aware of Connecticut State Statute 10-14n which mandates that students take a statewide mastery examination. However, as you know, I have the legal right to refuse to allow my child to participate in these tests and neither the state nor the school district has any legal right to punish me or my child for taking this action.

Furthermore, please note that a “refusal” is not the same as “absent” as they are defined differently. As such,   _______ will not be required to participate in any makeup tests.

I will be informing ________ that he/she is not to take any tests produced by or related to the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Coalition (SBAC), and that if he/she is given one he/she is not to work on it in any way.

I would ask that the school please provide him/her with an alternative, instructionally appropriate activity during any and call SBAC related testing.

Please confirm your receipt and understanding of this letter.



Parent’s name and contact information

Finally, you can also get more information about these issues from a variety of websites including the following:

United Opt Out: Connecticut Page

Truth in America Opt Out Form

Connecticut Against Common Core (and its Facebook counterpart Stop Common Core in CT )

You and Your Children Cannot Be Punished For Opting Out in Connecticut (Common Core in CT Blog)


And here are some of the previous Wait, What? Blogs on the Common Core SBAC Testing Scam

Common Core (SBAC) Results May Provoke Shock, Officials Urge Families to Stay Objective

Another reader speaks truth to power about the Common Core SBAC Test

Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster

Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is!

A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker

Greenwich superintendent joins Commissioner Pryor in misleading parents

An Open Letter to Parents from a Connecticut Parent

How much time and money can Malloy and Pryor Waste on the Common Core Test of a Test

The Malloy Administration’s Big Lie: Parents Can’t Opt Out.

Parents can opt their children out of the standardized testing frenzy and school superintendents should be supporting them

Commissioner Pryor’s agency tells superintendents to mislead and lie to parents – and they are

Parents can opt their children out of the standardized testing frenzy and school superintendents should be supporting them

An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools by Wendy Lecker


Editors Note:  Less than twelve hours after Governor Dannel Malloy took the podium to declare victory in November, Malloy’s political appointees on the Connecticut State Board of Education – including the appointee representing the American Federation of Teachers Connecticut Chapter – voted to request funding to open eight more charter schools in Connecticut.  The vote was unanimous, with absolutely no discussion of how to make existing charter schools accountable for their activities or the fact that Connecticut’s public schools are underfunded and additional funding will not be forthcoming anytime soon since Malloy’s fiscal strategies have left the state facing a large budget deficit this year and a massive $1.4 billion budget shortfall next year.

With that as background, fellow education blogger and public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, has written another “MUST READ” piece about the Malloy administration’s utter failure to oversee Connecticut’s charter schools.  Wendy Lecker’s piece appears in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate.  The entire commentary piece can be found here: An ‘anything goes’ approach to charter schools

One aspect of the Common Core regime imposed on Connecticut schools by our political leaders is an emphasis, some say over-emphasis, on informational texts, based on the claim that reading more non-fiction will somehow make students “college and career ready.” While our leaders force children to read more non-fiction, it appears that they are the ones with trouble facing facts.

Earlier this month, the Connecticut Department of Education quietly distributed a scathing investigative report on the Jumoke/FUSE charter chain, conducted by a law firm the department retained. The report reads like a manual on how to break every rule of running a non-profit organization.

The investigators found that although FUSE and Jumoke were supposed to be two separate, tax-exempt organizations, both were run by Michael Sharpe alone. FUSE, formed in 2012, never held board of directors’ meetings until after the public revelations in the spring of 2014 of Michael Sharpe’s felony record for embezzlement and falsification of his academic credentials. FUSE entered into contracts with the state to run two public schools without approval by its board. In fact, it is unclear that FUSE even had a board of directors then. Jumoke, too, played fast and loose with board meetings. Jumoke’s board gave Sharpe “unfettered control” over every aspect of the organization. Even after he left Jumoke for FUSE, Sharpe still ran Jumoke, leaving day-to-day operations to his nephew, an intern there.

Hiring and background checks were in Sharpe’s sole discretion. He placed ex-convicts in the two public schools run by Jumoke, Hartford’s Milner and Bridgeport’s Dunbar. Dunbar’s principal, brought in by Sharpe, was recently arraigned on charges of stealing more than $10,000 from the school.

Nepotism was “rampant.” Sharpe’s mother founded Jumoke. Sharpe moved from paraprofessional to CEO in 2003, with no additional training. His unqualified daughter and nephew were hired, as well as his sister.

The investigation found extreme comingling of funds and of financial and accounting activities, noting that it “would be difficult to construct a less appropriate financial arrangement between two supposedly separate organizations.”

Jumoke/FUSE used state money to engage in aggressive real estate acquisition, some not even for educational purposes, and some inexplicably purchased above its appraised value. Properties were collateral and/or were mortgaged for one another. Loan rates were excessive. To date, loans are guaranteed by FUSE, which is not operational.

Jumoke leased Sharpe part of a building who, violating the lease, sublet it and collected rent. Sharpe hired Jumoke’s facilities director’s husband to perform costly renovations on the parts of the building, his bedroom and bathroom, paid by Jumoke.

These are just some of the misdeeds that occurred without oversight by the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. The board approved contracts to run two public schools without verifying that FUSE had no board of directors. It approved millions to be paid to FUSE/Jumoke to buy non-educational buildings, charge excessive consulting fees to public schools and engage in possibly fraudulent activities. Worse still, the board allowed Jumoke/FUSE to run Milner school into the ground, jeopardizing the education of Milner’s vulnerable students.

After this inexcusable negligence by the board, one would hope that the board become more responsible stewards, calling for a moratorium on charters and turning their focus to devising sorely needed accountability for charter schools before any more public money is wasted and any more children’s lives are affected.

Yet, after the revelations about Sharpe’s crimes and lies, the board rushed through the charter application for Booker T. Washington school, originally intended for FUSE, without any investigation into the dubious record of the new leader or the questionable ties between the school and its contractor. In November, the State Board unanimously voted to open eight new charter schools, without any regard to whether there are state funds to support these schools.

And now Gov. Dannel Malloy approved $5 million dollars in taxpayer funds to be paid to “assist charter schools with capital expenses,” including helping privately run charters pay down debt on buildings they own. In the aftermath of the misuse of public funds by a charter for real estate shenanigans, the first thing Malloy does is give charters more money for real estate?

This administration and State Board of Education have an unacceptable “anything goes” approach to charter schools. This willful blindness must stop. Anything short of a moratorium on charters and specific, new clear and strict rules on charter approval and oversight is a continuation of the board’s dereliction of its duty to Connecticut’s children and taxpayers.

Common Core (SBAC) Results May Provoke Shock, Officials Urge Families to Stay Objective


Teachers, Parents, Public School Advocates, it is probably best to sit down for this one….

That bizarre and disturbing statement was the headline in a piece recently posted by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) following this week’s meeting of a Connecticut State Department of Education Working Group.

Reporting on the event, the CEA explained;

“Details are emerging about how the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) program will affect students, teachers, and communities.”

Wait?  “Details are emerging”?

The Common Core Standardized Testing Scam, known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment consortium (SBAC), is actually designed to ensure that about 70 percent of Connecticut students fail. [Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is! and Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster and A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker]

Not only is the Common Core testing system created to generate the false impression that Connecticut and the nation’s public education system is failing, but by tying the Common Core SBAC test results to the new inept, illogical and counter-productive Connecticut Teacher Evaluation System, the incredibly expensive “golden nugget” of the corporate education reform industry aims to denigrate teachers and blow apart what is left of the teaching profession.

But despite this truth, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration remain wedded to the implementation of the Common Core, the Common Core standardized testing program and a teacher evaluation process based on the results of those tests.

As the CEA’s January 21 2014 blog post explains,

“Most school districts in Connecticut administered a field test last year, but this year the program will be in high gear with educators administering the tests to students in grades 3-8 and 11 this April/May.


This year, the stakes will be high as students establish a baseline for the test. Jacqueline King, who works for the SBAC program, says the baseline data about Connecticut students’ performance on the first-time test has the “potential to shock” students and their families.”

The CEA goes on to report that at this week’s Working Group Meeting,

“Members of the working group [said they] are concerned about how test results will be messaged to ensure that the public understands that the SBAC program is still a work in progress.”

How the test results will be messaged??

That the SBAC program is still a work in progress?

It was Governor Malloy’s own Commissioner of Education who joined the other state education chiefs who voted to set the “cut score” so that 70 percent of Connecticut’s public school students would be deemed failures.

It was Governor Malloy and his State Department of Education that remain committed to linking the unfair test to the state’s new teacher evaluation system.

And it is because Malloy’s complete unwillingness to de-couple the Common Core SBAC test results from the teacher evaluation system that teachers across Connecticut are being coerced to teach to the very Common Cores Standardized SBAC test that their students will fail – and those failing scores will be used to “evaluate” the teachers.

The CEA article adds,

“Mark Waxenberg, executive director of CEA, raised a series of concerns at today’s meeting, saying that the new testing program is still in “the developmental stages.”

The article also noted that Joseph Cirasuolo, who is the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and one the most vocal supporters of Governor Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry initiative, said the results from the Common Core SBAC tests could, “scare the hell out of parents.” He apparently added, people “are talking about this as if it has a level of precision that it does not.”

“The new testing program is still in “the developmental stage”???

“A level of precision that it does not have”????

These two individuals and everyone else involved in the discussions surrounding the Common Core and Common Core testing debacle know perfectly well that the SBAC test is designed to fail 70 percent of the students and that the SBAC test will be used as a significant factor in determining which Connecticut teachers are deemed to be “good’ and which will be deemed “not good.”

Instead of raising these “concerns” at a State Department of Education Working Group, the CEA, AFT and the other Connecticut organization purportedly committed to Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools – such as CABE and CAPSS – should be demanding that the Common Core be halted, the Common Core Tests eliminated that Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system should be fully de-coupled from the SBAC test or any other standardized tests.

As if all of this wasn’t clear enough, in what is undoubtedly one of the most incredible and shocking comments to come out of the Malloy administration yet, the representative of the State Department of Education told the SDE working group,  “best practice dictates that educators should never make consequential decisions based on a single test score.”

OMG, What the____?????

Malloy, with the support of the Connecticut legislature is the one that MANDATED the expensive and wasteful Common Core SBAC tests be given and MANDATED that the Common Core SBAC test scores be used to evaluate teachers.

As the CEA post adds,

“Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education reportedly already has placed SBAC results on its list of multiple measures that colleges and universities can use to evaluate student readiness and placement. SDE officials also envision scenarios where high schools could include SBAC scores on student transcripts (as reportedly has been done in the past with CAPT scores)…”

The real problem is that the Common Core Standards were developed without the proper participation of educators and experts in child development.

Furthermore, as has been widely reported, some of the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate and the foundation of the Common Cores Standards are demanding that students immediately perform at a level that is at least two grade levels above what students have been learning.

The Common Core Test (SBAC) also discriminates against English Language Learners and students who require special education services…not to mention, as noted, that the absurd and warped system is actually designed with a pass/fail rate that will ensure that nearly 7 in 10 students fail.

The real problem with the entire situation lies with the Common Core itself and the way in which the Common Core standardized tests have been designed to undermine the stability of public education in America.

The solution is that the leadership of the two major teacher unions, and all of the others committed to public education, should be retreating from their support of the Common Core and its associated testing scheme.

Yet even now, while the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers raise concerns and call for action, their fundamental position of support for the Common Core remains intact.

The National Education Association’s website reports that the,

“NEA believes the Common Core State Standards have the potential to provide access to a complete and challenging education for all children. Broad range cooperation in developing these voluntary standards provides educators with more manageable curriculum goals and greater opportunities to use their professional judgment in ways that promote student success.”

At the same time, the American Federation of Teachers says,

That if implemented carefully and with the needed supports and resources, these new standards will help improve education for all students.  At last July’s  AFT Convention, “AFT members today passed a resolution at the union’s national convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards as a way to ensure all children have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century while sharply criticizing the standards’ botched implementation. “

But the Common Core Standards are inappropriate, unfair, and discriminatory.  The Common Core standardized tests are inexorably linked to those Common Core Standards, and until we set aside the Common Core and the Common Core testing, our nation’s children, teachers and our entire system of public education system will remain the primary target for those who seek to destroy public education for their own financial and political gain.

And when it comes to the relationship between the Common Core, Common Core testing and the teacher evaluation systems, those who are responsible for speaking up for our children, our teachers and our schools simply say enough is enough and corporate education reform initiatives need to be dismissed and real action taken to reduce the barriers to academic success – poverty, language barriers, and unmet special education needs to name a few.

Perhaps the leaders of the CEA, AFT, CABE and CAPSS should also read or re-read the commentary piece published last year by Wendy Lecker, one of the state’s leading public education advocates.

Wendy Lecker’s piece entitled, “Solution to failed tests is not more tests,” first appeared in the Stamford Advocate, and she wrote;

Fact: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan, because it relies on student standardized test scores, is fundamentally flawed. Student test scores cannot measure a teacher’s contribution to student learning. In fact, the president of the Educational Testing Service recently called evaluation systems based on student test scores “bad science.”

Rather than admit failure, the Malloy administration is trying futilely to “fix” the fatal flaw. Last week, PEAC, the panel charged with developing Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system, working under the direction of Commissioner Stefan Pryor, approved a change which calls for more standardized tests to be included in a teacher’s evaluation.

The commissioner’s “solution” is to add interim tests to a teacher’s rating. Determining what tests will be used, how they will be aligned to the standardized tests, and how all the test scores will be rolled into one “score” for teachers, will likely render this change completely unworkable.

However, there is an even larger issue at play. Will the addition of more tests in a teacher’s evaluation help us measure whether a teacher is effective?

According to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Connecticut’s public schools must prepare children “to participate in democratic institutions, and to prepare them to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.”

Thus, we want our children to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to succeed in college and in life. We want teachers who will help our children develop these skills.

Standardized tests have no bearing on college success. Moreover, although standardized tests are supposed to measure cognitive skills, research from MIT has shown that increasing test scores does not increase cognitive skills.

Even more striking is that cognitive skills, while important, are not the most important skills in determining success either in college or in life after college. Research has shown again and again that non-cognitive skills such as self-discipline, taking responsibility, and listening skills are more critical.

A recent comprehensive study by Northwestern Professor Kirabo Jackson found that children with teachers who help them develop non-cognitive skills have much better outcomes than those who have teachers who may help them raise test scores. Jackson found that every standard deviation increase in non-cognitive skills corresponds to a significant decrease in the drop-out risk and increased rates of high school graduation. By contrast, one standard deviation increase in standardized test scores has a very weak, often non-existent, relationship to these outcomes. Test scores also predict less than two percent of the variability in absences and suspensions, and under ten percent of the variability in on-time grade progression, for example.

Increases in non-cognitive abilities are also strongly correlated with other adult outcomes, such as a lower likelihood of arrest, a higher rate of employment and higher earnings. Increased test scores are not.

In short, focusing on non-cognitive abilities, those not measured by test scores, are more important in predicting success in high school and beyond.

Jackson also found that a teacher’s supposed effect on test scores is not related to how well that teacher can improve non-cognitive skills.

Moreover, a new statement by the American Statistical Association reminds us that ranking teachers based on test scores does not even work for measuring their effect on cognitive skills.

ASA notes that teachers account for 1-14 percent of the variability in student standardized test scores. The majority of variability in test scores results from “system-level conditions”; meaning everything affecting a student outside the teacher’s control: the child’s socio-economic status, parental background, language barriers, medical issues, student mobility, etc. Rating systems cannot eliminate the “noise” caused by these other factors.

ASA further states that test scores at best “predict only performance on the test.” This conclusion confirms Jackson’s results, i.e that tests cannot predict how well a student will succeed in school or life.

In the context of this evidence, what does the PEAC change mean?

By adding more tests of the same skills in the same subjects, PEAC merely added more meaningless “noise.” This addition will not give us any better picture of how well a teacher teaches.

Worse still, adding more tests increases the focus on tests, increases the frequency of testing, and distracts us from considering the skills teachers should be helping children develop. And since Connecticut’s evaluation system completely ignores these non-cognitive skills, they will be de-emphasized in school.

Meaningful evaluations systems can be developed, but relying on faulty measures is simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.

YES!  Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.

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