Andrea Comer, Charter Schools, Education Reform, Erik Clemons, Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), Jumoke Academy, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor, Steve Mandel Achievement First Inc., Andrea Comer, Charter Schools, Erik Clemons, Fuse, Jumoke at Milner, Malloy, Michael Sharpe, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
A News Update from Jonathan Pelto and Wendy Lecker
While Connecticut’s public schools continue to suffer from inadequate state funding and Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration strive to undermine, dismiss and destroy the CCJEF school funding lawsuit that would finally ensure that Connecticut meets its State Constitutional obligation to provide all students with a quality education, Malloy’s corporate education reform initiative has fueled an unprecedented growth of charter schools in Connecticut. The Charter School Industry now collects in excess of $100 million a year from Connecticut taxpayer.
Privately owned and operated, but funded with taxpayer dollars, Connecticut’s Charter Schools have consistently failed to educate their fair share of students that require special education services and English Language Learners who aren’t fluent in the English Language.
Achievement First, Inc., the large charter school chain with schools in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island, earned national notoriety when news broke about the shocking number of kindergarten and first graders suspended at their schools. The charter school company’s failure to provide special education students with appropriate services has generated investigations in both Connecticut and New York.
The truth is that while the Connecticut State Board of Education is legally obligated to regulate charter schools but they have had a very shoddy track record when it comes to fulfilling those duties.
After taking office, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor (a co-founder of Achievement First, Inc.) and the Governor’s political appointees to the State Board handed approximately $50 million to charter school operator Michael Sharpe and his Jumoke/FUSE’s charter school chain without bothering to uncover that fact that “Dr.” Sharpe didn’t actually have the advanced academic degree he claimed or that he had spent time in federal prison for embezzlement of public funds.
The State Board of Education even bestowed upon “Mr.” Sharpe control of Hartford’s Milner school which, under their not-so-watchful eyes, he ran into the ground.
In addition to “overlooking” state requirements that charters serve a requisite number or special education and English Language Learners, and that charters are not supposed to be over-concentrated in a limited number of municipalities, the State Board has rubber-stamped charter renewals, even when they fail to meet the standards set forth in their charter authorization.
The State Board of Education has done such an abysmal job overseeing charters that the legislature was forced to pass a law tightening charter oversight rules last session and added a layer of legislative oversight to the Department of Education’s charter authorization process.
But SURPIRSE – thanks to Governor Dannel Malloy’s recent action, Achievement First, Inc. and Connecticut’s Charter School owners, operators and advocates are celebrating the fact that one of their own was quietly been appointed to Connecticut’s State Board of Education, the very state entity that remains responsible for overseeing and regulating charter schools.
Although the potential conflict of interest is obvious, this isn’t the first time Governor Malloy has used his appointing authority to put a charter school person on the State Board of Education.
His last such appointee, the COO of the Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain, resigned from the State Board of Education and her job as the FBI and state investigators closed in on allegations of wrongdoing by “Jumoke/FUSE’s CEO, “Dr.” Sharpe.
And this time, the appointment of a charter school insider to the State Board of Education occurred when Malloy appointed three new members to Connecticut’s State Board of Education last month.
While the legislators will eventually have an opportunity to vote on the nominations, as interim appointees, the individuals have already taken their seats on the Board and will serve until confirmed or rejected by the General Assembly.
Media coverage of the appointments was minimal and limited to what was contained in the press release that was issued by Malloy’s Office in November. Gov. Malloy Appoints Three to Serve on the State Board of Education began,
Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that he is appointing Erik Clemons of New Haven, William Davenport of Litchfield, and Malia Sieve of Norwich to serve as members on the Connecticut State Board of Education.
“We are making significant progress as we raise the bar like never before. Connecticut’s State Board of Education plays a critical role in ensuring that our students receive a world class education that prepares them for careers in the 21st century,” Governor Malloy said. “Erik, Bill, and Malia are the right candidates for these roles, and I look forward to having them contribute their experiences and expertise as members of the board. We are going to continue moving our schools forward.”
The Press Release added;
Clemons is the founding CEO and President of Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, Inc. (ConnCAT), a nonprofit career training institution that aims to prepare youth and adults for educational and career advancement through after-school arts and job training programming.
But there is much more to the story;
Knowing that Malloy and his administration have the propensity to duck the truth, it will not be surprising to many people that Malloy failed to inform the media, the public or the legislature that the State Board of Education’s newest member, Erik Clemons, has an extensive and long-standing relationship with the charter school industry and is the President and CEO of a company that directly benefits from a large state contract that is funded through the State Department of Education.
- Erik Clemons served as member of Achievement First Inc.’s Elm City Charter School Board of Directors from 2013-2015.
- Erik Clemons is also a founding member of the Elm City Montessori Charter School, a charter school that opened earlier this fall after receiving approval from the State Board of Education this fall.
- Erik Clemons is the President of a non-profit corporation that received a lucrative contract, last year, a contract that is paid with taxpayer funds through the State Department of Education.
Malloy’s new appointees to the State Board of Education replace out-going members who resigned or didn’t seek re-appointment, including former State Board of Education member Andrea Comer.
As noted, Comer served as Chief Operating Officer of the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE charter school chain but quit both her job and her position on the State Board of Education when the charter school company became the target of the investigation into financial wrongdoing.
When Malloy appointed Comer, Wendy Lecker and I raised alarms about the potential conflict of interest that comes with having a charter school executive on the state committee that regulates that charter school industry. (See Pelto and Lecker’s March 15, 2013 commentary piece, Malloy nominates charter school corporate officer to Connecticut State Board of Education.)
At the time, both the Hartford Courant and Stamford Advocate followed up with editorials. In an editorial entitled, Conflict on state school board, the Stamford Advocate wrote;
Andrea Comer is a successful executive in the state charter school business. She has worked for the charter management company Achievement First, and in October was appointed chief operating officer of Family Urban Schools of Excellence, a management/expansion company created by Hartford’s Jumoke Academy charter school.
And she is poised to add another title to her substantial resume: member of the state Board of Education.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has appointed Comer to the board — raising eyebrows and questions about a conflict of interest. The board has direct oversight of the charter school industry, decides whether to reauthorize charters and votes on funding and the creation of new charter schools.
As former state legislator Jonathan Pelto and Hearst Connecticut Newspapers columnist Wendy Lecker wrote in a blog post regarding Comer’s appointment: “The conflict is obvious!”
Yet the state Ethics Commission somehow sees it another way. It ruled that Comer’s professional position would not pose a conflict on the state school board. Apparently, the position of COO does not rank high enough for a conflict to exist.
Comer as recently as last month lobbied the General Assembly for greater charter school funding. To put her on a body that helps determine that funding, well, as Pelto and Lecker said:
Now it is up to the members of the Connecticut General Assembly to stand up and be counted on this vital issue. As a corporate officer in a charter school company, Comer has a significant and clear conflict of interest. Legislature has a duty to reject her appointment to the State Board of Education.
Although one would have hoped that Governor Malloy had learned his lesson about keeping the charter school industry off the board that regulates them, Malloy failed to heed those warnings.
The Facts speak for themselves;
Malloy failed to reveal Erik Clemons connection with Achievement First, Inc.
As the minutes of the November 25, 2013 meeting of the Achievement First, Elm City College Preparatory Charter School Board of Directors note;
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Board of Elm City College Preparatory elects Mr. Erik Clemons to an initial term as a Class II Director expiring on 6/30/2014, eligible for reelection for a subsequent 3-year term.
Carolyn Greenspan moved to elect Erik Clemons to the Board, and Laura Saverin seconded. The Board voted unanimously to approve Erik Clemons as a Director.
According to Achievement First records, it appears Erik Clemons remained on the Achievement First Elm City Directors until the charter school’s meeting on 1/21/15 meeting.
Malloy failed to reveal Erik Clemons is a founding board member of the Elm City Montessori Charter School.
From the New Haven Independent, State OKs “Pioneering” Local Charter
The approval came Monday at a meeting of the state Board of Education in the Legislative Office Building. The board unanimously approved a proposal to create a new pre-K to 8 charter school called the Elm City Montessori School, starting with 51 New Haven kids ages 3 to 5 in the fall of 2014 (Later changed to fall 2015).
The state will kick in an extra $3,000 per pupil, as well as an undetermined amount of start-up money, in return for extra scrutiny: The school’s existence will depend on the state renewing its charter every five years.
State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, who sits on the state school board, said state law has allowed for “local charters” in prior years, but no proposals ever got off the ground. The state’s education reform law of 2012 revised the “local charter” distinction to require staffing flexibility and to add the $3,000-per-pupil incentive, he said. Pryor commended the New Haven group for an “outstanding application.”
“We are very pleased to see the pioneering effort that you have organized taking shape,” said Pryor, a former New Haven alderman and founding member of New Haven’s Amistad Academy charter school.
The new investment in charters comes under a new education commissioner, Pryor, with a record of charter support: In 1999 he helped found Amistad Academy, which later grew into the state’s largest charter network…
And while Malloy noted that Erik Clemons is founding CEO and President of Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, Inc. (ConnCAT), the Governor failed to explain that the company has a major contract funded through the Department of Education.
From the New Haven Register;
Lincoln-Bassett was added this year to the state Commissioner’s Network for underperforming schools, joining the city’s High School in the Community and Wilbur Cross High School. The network seeks to significantly improve struggling schools through collaboration between local stakeholders and the state Department of Education.
The school received $1.4 million in operating and capital improvement grants and secured partnership with ConnCAT to facilitate the before- and after-school programs.
“It was really important that Mayor Toni Harp, and Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries were aligned on this idea that families and children can rise through the advent of provided services,” said ConnCAT CEO Erik Clemons.
Finally, Malloy fails to mention that Erik Clemons is affiliated with Billionaire Steven Mandell’s Zoom Foundation, the organization that played a key, behind-the-scenes role in persuading the Malloy administration to illegally take over the Bridgeport Public School System.
Mandell is not only a major Malloy campaign donor, but is a leading financial funder of the charter school industry. Mandell’s pro-“education reform” activities including paying for an education “policy staff” person housed in Malloy’s Hartford Office and another one who was stationed in former Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch’s Bridgeport Office. (See Wait, What? NEWS FLASH: Hedge fund founder buys leadership ‘pipeline’ in Malloy’s office 2/3/14)
In Erik Clemons case we learn from the Zoom Foundation – The ZOOM Foundation’s new Prize for Parent Organizing supports nonprofit organizations inspired by the potential of parent power to contribute to the achievement of educational equity in Connecticut. The Program Selection Committee for The ZOOM Foundation’s Prize for Parent Organizing includes:
Erik Clemons: Erik is CEO and President of ConnCAT, an organization he established in New Haven in 2011. The Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, ConnCAT, is a post-secondary career training hub committed to connecting a world-class facility and resources to local need. Currently ConnCAT provides market-relevant job training and placement services to under and unemployed adults and multimedia arts education to 6 under-achieving youth from low-income families…
Also on the Zoom Foundation’s Program Selection Committee…
None other than Andrea Comer; Andrea Comer is Executive Director of The Connecticut Business & Industry Association’s Education Foundation. In this role, Andrea stewards the efforts of CBIA’s nonprofit affiliate, which is responsible for promoting the development of Connecticut’s workforce through education and training, particularly as it relates to the manufacturing and energy sectors.
A former member of the Hartford and State Boards of Education, Andrea has spent the past two decades working to improve the lives of children and strengthen communities. Prior to joining CBIA, Andrea served as Chief Development Officer for an education management organization, where she oversaw communications, strategic planning and development. (Apparently the Zoom Foundation couldn’t even bring themselves to reveal that the “education management organization” they highlight is the disgraced Jumoke/FUSE organization.
The bottom line is that when Dannel Malloy had the opportunity to set a proper course for the State Board of Education, one in which conflicts of interest were not allowed, he instead chose Erik Clemmons.
And so as Paul Harvey was fond of saying, “Now you know the rest of the story.”
Alliance Districts, Connecticut State Department of Education, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, Mass Insight company, School Funding/ECS, Stefan Pryor Alliance Districts, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, school funding, State Department of Education, Stefan Pryor
Here we go again…
Rather than properly fund Connecticut’s public schools, Governor Malloy has turned his back on the majority of Connecticut’s public schools and local property taxpayers by shifting almost all new state education funding to Connecticut’s so-called Alliance Districts.
Making matters far worse, rather than using the State Department of Education’s expert team of superintendents, principals and policy experts who had been working with Connecticut’s Priority Schools, Malloy’s first Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, laid off and reassigned these experienced Connecticut educators and handed their work over to Mass Insight, Inc., a politically-connected, out-of-state Corporate Education Reform consulting company. Mass Insight then sent in a team of consultants, with little to no education experience, to manage the day to day work associated with the Alliance District and Turnaround Program.
And heading up the overall operation, which has spent more than $300 million in public funds, Commissioner Stefan Pryor recruited a school principal from Achievement First, Inc. the large charter school management company that Pryor co-founded.
Lacking the certification necessary to teach or work in a Connecticut school, Morgan Barth had already spent eight years illegally teaching and working at Achievement First, Inc. However, Barth’s claim to fame was that he was a close relative of Richard Barth, the CEO of the massive KIPP Charter School chain who, in turn, is married to Wendy Koop, the founder of Teach for America.
When it comes to actually overseeing Malloy’s Alliance District program, Barth and Mass Insight’s track record has been abysmal, but that didn’t stop Mass Insight from collecting at least $1,957,960 in consulting fees and Barth finding the time to head out to Storrs to get his superintendent’s certification via one of the short-cut training programs at UConn’s NEAG School of Education.
Of course, not surprisingly, when Stefan Pryor bailed to take a job in Rhode Island, Malloy’s new Commissioner of Education, Dianna Wentzell, continued to use Mass Insight to run the Alliance District Program.
But despite the State Department of Education’s record of failure, or perhaps because of their record of mismanagement, Commissioner Wentzell is now blaming the Alliance Districts themselves for problems that have developed with the program, rather than the inexperienced, but highly paid consultants that she and her predecessor hired and coddled.
The Hartford Courant covers the new development in an article entitled, Some Struggling Districts Using State Grant For Unintended Purposes while the CT Mirror’s story is entitled, Schools redirecting money intended for reforms, officials say.
As the Courant reports,
“The board is aware of a couple of examples that have been brought to our attention of extreme misuse as a result of carryover,” Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said. “This allows us to keep the Alliance District funds focused on the Alliance District plan.”
Keep Alliance District funds focused on the Alliance District Plan?
Considering the way in which the out-of-state consultants coordinated the program, attacking the Alliance Districts is particularly revolting.
And let’s be clear, it’s not like Wentzell and her management team weren’t well aware of the problems associated with the way the Alliance District Program was being run because, as has been clear from the state, those problems started at the top and were a direct result of the policy decisions Pryor and Wentzell made.
The following 17 Wait, What. Blog posts are just a fraction of the reports about the way in which Mass Insight Inc. and the State Department of Education were managing the Alliance District program.
Connecticut legislators take note, before Malloy’s State Department of Education and State Board of Education start attacking Connecticut’s most challenged school districts, they should be required to come clean about myriad of problems that were caused by the way they “managed” the program.
The following are Wait, What? Posts on Connecticut’s Alliance District Program and the way in which Malloy’s own commissioners and consultants mismanaged and undermined the program.
Mass Insight contract “magically extended” on its last day. Cost to taxpayers: $800,000 (2/3/14)
A plea to the public for help in tracking down the Malloy Administration’s effort to extend $1 million contract (1/28/14)
Pryor now using out-of-state company to recruit out-of-state school principals (12/23/13)
Are Alliance School Districts implementing their Turnaround Plans with “fidelity”? (12/4/13)
No Joke: Year 2 Alliance District “kickoff” tomorrow despite Pryor’s failure to get money to Alliance Districts (10/16/13)
Did Connecticut’s Director for School Turnaround illegally teach in the State of Connecticut? (10/8/13)
Malloy’s Education Commissioner prepares 2014 legislative agenda that increases his power and promotes charters (9/17/13)
Mass Insight swaps out more consultants: Further reducing experience for CT Alliance Districts (8/26/13)
Malloy/Pryor’s new “Turnaround Director” violated Connecticut law by failing to get proper teacher certification (8/20/13)
Just when Connecticut’s “Alliance” Districts thought it couldn’t get worse… (8/19/13)
Hello? It’s the 2nd week of August…where is the State’s Alliance District Funding? (8/8/13)
Malloy’s Commissioner of Education signs another $1 million contract with out-side consultants (7/20/13)
Warning! Warning! Alliance Districts Beware: (6/27/13)
Pay More, Get Less: The Malloy/Pryor Approach to Problem Solving: (6/5/13)
Layoffs for Connecticut Residents, Retainers for out-of-state consultants: The Malloy-Pryor-Mass Insight Contract (5/24/13)
The Malloy/Pryor Education Reform Consultant Full Employment Gravy Train (5/17/13)
Oh look, there goes more Connecticut taxpayer money to out-of-state “education reform” consultants (5/16/13)
AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, Connecticut Education Assocation, Malloy, Stefan Pryor AFL-CIO, AFT-CT, CEA, Malloy, Stefan Pryor
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.
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…
Adam Goldfarb, Connecticut State Department of Education, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Kelly Donnelly, Malloy, Stefan Pryor Adam Gold, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Kelly Donnelly, Malloy, State Department of Education, Stefan Pryor
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.
Achievement First/ConnCAN, Charter Schools, Coalition for Every Child, Families for Excellent Schools, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry Capital Preparatory Magnet School Achievement First Inc., Bronx Charter School for Excellence, Capital Prep Charter School, Charter Schools, ConnCAN, Families for Excellent Schools, Malloy, Stefan Pryor, Steve Perry
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)
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bridgeport, Education Reform, Educators 4 Excellence, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch Bridgeport, Corporate Education Reform Industry, E4E, Educators 4 Excellence, Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch, Stefan Pryor
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)
Alan Taylor, Common Core, Education Reform, Malloy, Nathan Quesnel, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Common Core, Corporate Education Reform Industry, Dianna Roberge-Wentzell, Malloy, Nathan Quesnel, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
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
AN ACT IMPOSING A MORATORIUM ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS
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.
Alan Taylor, Common Core, Connecticut State Department of Education, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Alan Taylor, Common Core, Malloy, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, State Board of Education, State Department of Education, Stefan Pryor
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 http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/troubleshooters/State-Prohibits-Parents-From-Opting-Kids-Out-of-Testing-291119901.html
Common Core, Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT), Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Alan Taylor, Common Core, Malloy, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor
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 Critics – Connecticut – Guide to Opting Out
How To Opt Out of Standardized Testing in Connecticut
Common Core, Connecticut State Department of Education, Malloy, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, Stefan Pryor Common Core, Malloy, SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment Test, Standardized Testing, State Board of Education, State Department of Education, Stefan Pryor
Connecticut parents and guardians have the right to opt their children out of the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) Standardized Testing Program
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!)
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)
Fair Test Memo: “WHY YOU CAN BOYCOTT STANDARDIZED TESTS WITHOUT FEAR OF FEDERAL PENALITES TO YOUR SCHOOL
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