Mayor Segarra and Matt Poland lead 6-2 vote to give TFA $650,000

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There will be 210 fewer job openings in the Hartford School System for Connecticut residents thanks to Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Matt Poland and their allies on the Hartford Board of Education.

While hundreds of qualified, certified Connecticut teachers are unemployed and hundreds of additional Connecticut residents will be seeking teaching jobs after graduating from Connecticut institutions of higher education and completely comprehensive teacher training programs, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra led his political appointees in a 6-2 vote to give Teach for America another three-year contract with the City of Hartford..  In exchange for the $650,000 finder’s fee, Teach for America will send 210 new recruits to teach in Hartford Schools.

Mayor Segarra appoints the majority of members to the Hartford Board of Education.  All of his appointees, including out-going Board of Education Chairman Matt Poland, voted in favor of the TFA contract.

In this case the actual deciding vote came from the Hartford Board of Education’s one elected Republican who, “coincidently,” was “elected” chairman of the Hartford Board of Education last night as Segarra’s choice for the position.

Only Working Families Party member Robert Cotto and Michael Brescia, a former Buckley High School teacher, voted against the TFA contract.

Although the TFA recruits only get five weeks of training, they are paid the same salary and given the same benefits as teachers who already hold teacher certification in Connecticut and who have gone through a full college-level teacher training program.

The Hartford Courant update on the vote is below, but for background purposes,

According to Forbes Magazine, as of 2012, Teach for America collects in excess of $318 million a year to enlist recent college graduates to teach in low-income communities throughout the United States.

Wendy Kopp is the Founder and Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors.  Until recently she was Co-CEO of Teach For America.  Now, in addition to being the Chair of TFA’s Board of Directors, Kopp serves as Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Teach For All, a new TFA spin-off company that is trying to recreate TFA in the global marketplace.

Connecticut billionaire Steven Mandel Jr. is the Treasurer of Teach For America’s Board of Directors.  Mandel is not only a major campaign contributor to Governor Malloy but has donated tens of millions to support the corporate education reform industry.  Mandel played a pivotal role in the creation of Excel Bridgeport Inc. and the related ongoing effort to privatize public education in Bridgeport.

In addition to her TFA work, Wendy Kopp is married to Richard Barth, Jr.  Barth serves as the CEO of the KIPP charter school chain.  KIPP is one of the biggest players in the corporate education reform industry with 141 charter schools in 20 states.

Interestingly, Morgan Barth, who illegally taught and served as an administrator at Achievement First, Inc. for six years before becoming Commissioner Pryor’s “Turnaround Director” is a close relative of Barth and Kopp.

Of course, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor is the co-founder of Achievement First, Inc.  Achievement First Inc. is the charter school management company with schools in Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island.  Achievement First Inc. has also been the charter school company that has received the most financial benefit from Malloy and Pryor’s pro-charter school policies.

Not long ago Achievement First, Inc. added Elisa Villanueva Beard to their Board of Directors.  Elisa Villanueva Beard is a long time TFA senior executive and became TFA’s Co-CEO when Kopp left to become CEO of that new TFA spin off company.

Jonathan Sackler, a leading corporate education reform advocate in Connecticut and another major Malloy donor has been part of the Achievement First Inc. Board of Directors since it was co-founded by Stefan Pryor.  Sacker also formed ConnCAN and ConnAD, which is now called A Better Connecticut.

ConnCAN, ConnAD and A Better Connecticut led the record-breaking $6 million dollar lobbying effort in support of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” initiative.  These groups, along with Steve Mandel and Excel Bridgeport Inc., played the key role in support of Mayor Bill Finch’s failed effort to eliminate an elected board of education in Bridgeport.  They also pumped a significant amount of money into Fich’s failed effort to elect Bridgeport Board of Education candidates who would support Paul Vallas.  (They failed Vallas leaves his post in Bridgeport this coming Friday).  Finch is a leading supporter of Achievement First’s Bridgeport Charter School and is lobbying on behalf of Capital Prep Steve Perry’s attempt to use his own private company to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

Jonathan Sackler also created 50CAN, a company dedicated to spreading the ConnCAN model across the country.  Sackler formed 50CAN and serves on its Board of Directors.  50CAN’s Board includes Dacia Toll who not only co-founded Achievement First Inc. with Stefan Pryor, but presently serves as Co-CEO & President of Achievement First, Inc.

Another 50CAN Board Member is none-other-than KIPP Charter School’s Richard Barth Jr.  That being the same Richard Barth Jr. who is Wendy Kopp’s husband and Morgan Barth’s relative.

Meanwhile, back in Hartford, the Hartford Courant explains,

“The board voted 6-2 to approve a three-year, $650,940 contract extension between the city schools and Teach For America, a proposal that drew critics and supporters of TFA who addressed the board for more than an hour during public comments.

Teach For America recruits and trains recent college graduates who pledge to teach for at least two years in mostly low-income public schools across the country. The agreement calls for Hartford to pay Teach For America about $3,000 per recruit, with up to 60 TFA hires in 2014-15, up to 70 in 2015-16 and as many as 80 in 2016-17.

[…]

Since 2007, the first year of Hartford’s partnership with Teach For America, the district has hired 1,477 new teachers, 14 percent of whom are TFA recruits, said Jennifer Allen, the school system’s chief talent officer.

Rather than graduating from a traditional teacher preparation college, TFA recruits complete five weeks of training and become certified through the state’s Alternate Route to Certification program, administrators said. They also receive ongoing professional development through TFA that Allen called “a remarkable model for supporting new teachers.”

While several Hartford students spoke in support of their TFA teachers, many of the critics Monday, including Andrea Johnson, president of the Hartford Federation of Teachers, described the contract as paying a “headhunters fee” and argued that the money should be spent on improving school programs. Board member Robert Cotto Jr., who voted against the extension, also criticized the retention rate.

Among the 22 TFA hires in 2007, three remain in the school system. And of the 31 TFA teachers in the 2011-12 year, 13 still teach in Hartford schools, district data show.

Those numbers reveal that only 13 percent of the 2007 TFA recruits are still teaching in Hartford after six years and 58 percent of the 2011 TFA recruits have already bailed.

Of course, the contract states that TFA keeps its $3,000 per recruit even if the teacher quits during the first week of school.

Hartford’s Matt Poland lashes out at citizens who write to him about his upcoming TFA vote

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Appointed by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, Matt Poland serves as a member of the Hartford Board of Education.  While he will remain on the Board, Poland is stepping down as Chairman tonight and Segarra’s appointees will elect the one Republican on the Board to become the Chairman.

Matt Poland also serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Hartford Library.  Poland became the Hartford Public Library’s Deputy Administrator in June 2008.  He became interim Director in December 2008 and by October 2009 he had acquired the title of Chief Executive Officer.  This was the first time that such a title had been used since the library opened in 1893.

As a public servant, whether on the Hartford Board of Education or as an employee of the Hartford Public Library, Poland’s primary job is to serve the public.

It is for that reason his email attack on citizens who contacted him is all the more bizarre.

As noted in previous Wait, What? blog posts, the Hartford Board of Education will be voting on a $650,000 Teach for America contract tonight.  Over the past few weeks a number of citizens have written to members of the Hartford Board of Education urging them to vote no.  Some citizens wrote following an informative email they received from the American Federation of Teachers (see below).

On Saturday night, after receiving a number of emails, Matt Poland went into an email tirade and sent out this response.

Collecting the names of the people who had written to him, Poland sent out a blast email that was cc’d to all the people who wrote.  His email read,

“I have just received 13 e-mails from this group on the above-referenced topic in which each of you have presented yourselves as Hartford residents, while only 6 are actually residents and taxpayers in the City (please see the list of locations below). Let me begin by saying that this demonstrates a lack of good judgement on the part of those writers who misrepresented themselves.

Since this is a form letter, it is clear that there is an organizing entity behind this effort. I will tell you what I intend to do when one of you tell me who you represent.

Matt Poland
Board Chair

Windsor
Newington
Rocky Hill
West Hartford
East Hartford (2)
Bloomfield
Hartford (6)

If there was a “Hall of Fame” to highlight the arrogance and sense of entitlement that permeates American politics, politicians and political appointees, Poland’s missive could certainly be a stand-alone exhibit.

It would certainly be inappropriate for a non-Hartford resident to say they lived in Hartford.  As members of the Hartford Board of Education, Poland and the others certainly have a primary duty to Hartford students, parents, teachers and residents.

However for Poland to dismiss the concerns of the people who wrote to him is beyond insulting.

Here are some important facts:

As a result of the Open Choice program, Hartford schools accept children from the entire region. 

Even more to the point, only about 23 percent of Hartford’s $415 million school budget is funded by Hartford taxpayers.  Connecticut taxpayers pick up about 67 percent of Hartford’s school budget and the federal government pays for most of the last 10 percent.

From the available evidence, it certainly doesn’t appear that any person was trying to “trick” Poland into believing they were Hartford residents, but more to the point, as a public official Poland has a duty to be open-minded enough that voices – even those outside of Hartford – are heard.

The individuals who wrote the emails to Poland were apparently persuaded to write after reading the following email sent out by the American Federation of Teachers,

Hartford’s Board of Education is expected to vote Monday night on whether to renew a recruiting contract with Teach for America (TFA) worth nearly three quarters of a million dollars.

Is this really the best use of the city’s limited education resources?

Handing $651,000.00 to TFA over three years as a “finders-fee” for an additional 210 recruits for the district raises additional questions:

Why spend tax dollars on a human resources function when parents are crying out for improvements to their neighborhood schools?

Why outsource recruiting to TFA instead of partnering with our state’s public colleges and universities?

Why import TFA recruits from outside the state when there is no shortage of credentialed teachers right here in Connecticut?

Click here to tell the BOE to invest in Hartford’s neighborhood schools, not outside “head hunters.”

The growing “Hartford Rising” movement has been saying school officials need to listen to parents, communities, and educators before making decisions that impact students and their opportunity to learn. Join them in urging the board vote “NO” to this costly contract.

In solidarity,

Melodie Peters
President, AFT Connecticut

Steve McKeever
First Vice-President, AFT Connecticut

Jean Morningstar
Second Vice-President, AFT Connecticut

Andrea Johnson
President, Hartford Federation of Teachers Local 1018

Shellye Davis
Co-President, Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals, AFT Local 2221

Jackie Aviles
Co-President, Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals, AFT Local 2221

P.S. Click here for a brief story on the board’s planned vote and the growing movement to “resist TFA” in local schools across the nation.

And when you, “Click here to tell the BOE to invest in Hartford’s neighborhood schools, not outside ‘head hunters,’” you get this,

Hartford BOE: Make Better Choices than Finder’s Fees

Hartford school officials are about to decide on renewing a three-year, $651,000.00 contract with Teach for America (TFA) for an additional 210 recruits for the district. We are urging members living in Hartford to contact the Board of Education before their February 24 meeting and urge they make better choices with scarce education resources.

Join the Hartford Rising! movement in urging the BOE to invest in Hartford’s neighborhood schools, not outside “head hunters.”

In order to address your message to the appropriate recipient, we need to identify where you are.

Please look up and use your full nine-digit zip for the best results. Please enter your zip/postal code

Hartford Leaders scheduled to waste another $650,000 in taxpayer funds

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Last week’s Hartford Board of Education meeting has been re-scheduled for tonight.

At tonight’s meeting, the Hartford Board of Education, led by Mayor Pedro Segarra, is expected to throw an additional $650,940 at Teach for America.

Despite the fact that there are hundreds of unemployed and underemployed Connecticut residents who are certified teachers and hundreds of other Connecticut residents who have recently graduated or will be graduating from Connecticut’s public and independent colleges with teaching degrees, Hartford’s Mayor Segarra will likely give Teach for America a $650,000 “finders-fee” to bring in up to 210, mostly out-of-state, recruits to take teaching positions in Hartford public school classrooms.

The action being taken by these Hartford leaders is an extraordinary and disturbing statement about their fundamental lack of commitment to Connecticut citizens.

Instead of providing jobs for people here at home, these “leaders” will use scarce Connecticut taxpayer dollars to hire an out-of-state, nonprofit company who will bypass qualified Connecticut residents, recruit primarily out-of-state people, give them five weeks of training and then place them in a Hartford classroom where they will receive the same salary and benefits as a Connecticut resident who have gone through one of our college’s teacher training programs.

This vote isn’t about whether Teach for America is a good program, it is about how Connecticut’s elected and appointed officials are using public funds.

In her memo to the Hartford Board of Education,Hartford Superintendent Kishimoto writes,

“Teach for America recruits teachers from the top colleges and universities across the country.  Each teacher, corps member, commits to teach for two years in one of 39 urban and rural regions across the United States. Teach for America’s mission is to recruit, select, train and support outstanding recent college graduates to serve as highly qualified and effective teachers in urban schools.”

TFA may be a great program, at least for its corps members.  With a mere five weeks of training, TFA recruits are paid the same rate as Hartford’s fully trained beginning teachers and the federal government allows the TFA recruits to write-off their federal student loans for each year they teach.

However, as noted in an earlier blog, 136,500 Connecticut residents remain unemployed including many trained teachers who already hold Connecticut teacher certificates.

Furthermore, as a direct result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s policies, there are about 8,200 FEWER jobs in state and local government since he took office.  Those jobs disappeared as a result of targeted budget cuts to various government programs, including education at the state and local level.

In addition, hundreds of new Connecticut residents have graduated over the past couple of years or will be graduating from the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State University and other Connecticut colleges and universities after completing four and five-year teacher preparation programs.

These students and their families have spent tens of thousands of dollars to prepare for a teaching career in Connecticut.

But rather than give unemployed teachers and the fully-trained recent graduates an opportunity to get a job in Connecticut’s capital city and contribute to the well-being of their home state, the Hartford Board of Education appears ready to throw away another $650,000 on Teach for America’s fees to recruit non-Connecticut residents.

Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Windham, New London and other cities have already paid out millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to Teach for America so that they can recruit and place inexperienced teachers in our state’s urban classrooms.

The fact that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Pryor haven’t stepped in to put Connecticut citizens first is even more outrageous.

Once again, we are left to ask, are there any elected or appointed state or municipal officials who will stand up for Connecticut’s families?

You can contact Hartford Board of Education members by using the following links;

Our Board of Education members include:
Matthew K. Poland, Chairman
Robert Cotto, Jr., Secretary
Honorable Mayor Pedro Segarra, Board Member
Jose Colón-Rivas, Board Member
Richard F. Wareing, Board Member
Beth A. Taylor, Ph, D., Board Member
Craig Stallings, Board Member
Michael Brescia, Board Member

A parent speaks out about Teach For America

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There is a lot in corporate education “reform” that astonishes, but perhaps nothing is so astonishing as the strategic deployment of TFA. It’s counter-intuitive that untrained recent graduates will fare better in the classroom than seasoned teachers. And the reason that this notion feels counter-intuitive is quite simple: its contrary to common sense and cool reason. With rare exceptions, there is no way at all that a person with 5 weeks training can take commanding control of the classroom and lead the students with equanimity.

I have known young people who went into TFA, and while I thought highly of them as individuals, I did not think that they were prepared to do a better job of teaching than someone with professional training. There is a reason we have EDUCATION PROGRAMS. Yesterday, we took teaching seriously: we saw it as a profession, a vocation, which makes great demands on its practitioners. We understood that it was no small thing to get up in front of children and then ask them to follow you. But today we–meaning “they”!!–have completely trivialized teaching. They have decided that teaching is just like brushing your teeth or driving your car: just about anyone can do it!

TFA is insidious for a number of reasons. It’s an integral part of the corporate plan to de-professionalize teachers and to bring them under strict management control. Professionalism is anathema to the corporate types because professionals have too much workplace autonomy. We can’t have that in our brave new schools of “accountability.” Professionals typically form unions. And this is the real value of TFA for the “reformers”: it allows management to go around union contracts by using “contract labor”–i.e., the TFA cohort. And it will always be true that people on short term contracts are more vulnerable, more pliable and less invested in their place of employment. In short, TFA gives management a considerable degree of “flexibility.”

And TFA is not the best option for students. As Jon Pelto says, there are many unemployed teachers in Connecticut. If Hartford BOE has money to spend, it should spend it on real teachers for the benefit of the children. TFA is not only part of union busting, it is also, sad to say, an engine for increasing the ghettoization of the ghetto. When TFA went to New Orleans, thousands of public school teachers were laid off, many of them people of color, whose middle class jobs were crucial for the stability of certain neighborhoods. When these people lost their jobs, the impact on their communities must have been terrible. I’m sure the same thing will happen in Hartford, albeit on a much smaller scale. But Hartford needs every good job that it currently has, as the city’s economy is anything but promising.

Superintendent Kishimoto (in league with Stefan Pryor) is wreaking havoc on Hartford’s future. She is taking from the needy to give to those who are already glutted. TFA is a rich organization, backed by powerful wealthy people; it does not need a penny of public money. If they want to send “brilliant young people” to the poorest school districts, let them pay for it!

One hopes that some of the young people recruited to TFA will wake up and see the light. I understand that many have good intentions, but they have to realize that they are being used. I told one person I know who was in TFA that she should immediately disabuse herself of the idea that she was going to “save poor kids in the ghetto.” What could she know as someone who grew up with wealth what it is was like to live in a distressed community like Hartford? TFA encourages their “bright young things” to think of themselves as “game changers.” In my view, this is little else than an incitement to willful innocence or disgusting arrogance. And what is more, when the TFA “teacher” has a hard time of it and is forced to revise her “idealism,” it is easy to see that she might become bitter and cynical–hardly the attitudes you want in a leader of children…

I always say if TFA is so great then send them to the wealthy districts like Avon and Farmington, and the veteran teachers in those communities can come and teach in places like Hartford and Windham. Of course, I am well aware this would never happen!

With 136,500 unemployed in CT, Hartford Board of Ed may give TFA $650,940 to recruit out-of-state inexperienced teachers

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In an extraordinary statement about the fundamental lack of commitment to Connecticut citizens, the Hartford Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 5:30 p.m. to authorize Superintendent Christina Kishimoto to extend the Hartford Board of Education’s contract with Teach for America, costing Connecticut and Hartford taxpayers an additional $650,940.

The taxpayer funds will be used to pay Teach for America a “finders-fee” to recruit up to 210 college graduates, none of whom will have gone through a college level teacher training program, to take teaching position in Hartford classrooms.

As the memo from Superintendent Kishimoto to the Hartford Board of Education explains;

“Teach for America recruits teachers from the top colleges and universities across the country.  Each teacher, corps member, commits to teach for two years in one of 39 urban and rural regions across the United States. Teach for America’s mission is to recruit, select, train and support outstanding recent college graduates to serve as highly qualified and effective teachers in urban schools.”

TFA recruits are given five weeks of training, are paid the same rate as Hartford’s fully trained beginning teachers and the federal government will allow the TFA recruits to write-off their federal student loans for each year they teach.

Meanwhile, 136,500 Connecticut residents remain unemployed including many trained teachers who already hold Connecticut teacher certificates.

Furthermore, as a direct result of Governor Dannel Malloy’s policies, there are about 8,200 FEWER jobs in state and local government since he took office.  Those jobs disappeared as a result of targeted budget cuts to various government programs, including education at the state and local level.  Some of those lost jobs were held by teachers with valid Connecticut teaching certificates.

In addition, hundreds of new Connecticut residents have graduated over the past couple of years from the University of Connecticut, Connecticut State University and other Connecticut colleges and universities after completing four and five-year teacher preparation programs.

These students and their families have spent tens of thousands of dollars to prepare for a teaching career in Connecticut.

But rather than give unemployed teachers and the fully-trained recent graduates an opportunity to get a job and contribute to the well-being of their home state, the Hartford Board of Education, a committee that includes the Mayor of Hartford, may vote to pay Teach for America another $650,000 to recruit mostly out-of-state kids to move to Connecticut for a couple of years.

The notion that the Hartford Board of Education would even consider such an insult to Connecticut and its taxpayers is disturbing beyond words.

To date, Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport,Windham, New London and other cities have already paid millions of taxpayer funds to Teach for America so that they can recruit and place inexperienced teachers in our state’s urban classrooms.

The fact that Governor Malloy and Education Commissioner Prior aren’t stepping in to put Connecticut citizens first is even more outrageous.

Once again, we are left to ask, are there any elected or appointed state or municipal officials who will stand up for Connecticut’s families?

The question is, will Governor Malloy, Commissioner Pryor or Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra act before it is too late?

Or will they turn their backs on Connecticut citizens yet again?

Need a TFA recruit? New Haven that will be $2,500… Windham you’ll have to kick in $4,000

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In 2011, Teach for America brought in $306.8 million in revenue, up 14 percent from the year before.

TFA brags that only 20 percent of their money goes to fundraising and administration.

As of two years ago, Wendy Koop, TFA’s CEO and co-founder, pulled down $448,000 in salary and benefits.  Her co-founder, Matthew Kramer made another $356,000.  The next thirteen administrators collected salary and benefit packages ranging from $281,000 to $194,000 a year.

Teach for America’s federal financial reports are not particularly clear but it appears that in 2011 they received about $28.7 million for what they call “Fee for Service” revenue.

One assumes that is the money they collect from school districts for recruiting and placing TFA recruits in poor, urban districts around the nation.

While these finder’s fees appear to account for less than 10 percent of their total revenue, $28.7 million is … well, $28.7 million.

But as readers learned thanks to two recent Wait, What? posts, not every community is treated the same when it comes to what they have to pay to get a TFA recruit.

Having now acquired the Teach For America contracts from New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport and Windham, the number of questions about TFA’s practices is growing by the moment.

According to these TFA contracts, New Haven paid $2,500 for each of the TFA recruits the “non-profit” entity provided the New Haven school system last year.

At the very same time, TFA was charging Hartford $3,000.  In Hartford, TFA’s finder’s fee is going to stay the same for the duration of their existing contract.

But Bridgeport’s taxpayers are not so lucky.  And considering 80 percent of Bridgeport’s school budget is paid for by state taxpayers, the higher rates in Bridgeport are as much of a state issue as they are a local one.

Last Spring Paul Vallas signed a contract with TFA that committed the Bridgeport school system to pay TFA a finder’s fee of $3,000 per year, per recruit.  The amount Bridgeport must pay goes up to $3,105 in 2014 and $3,214 in 2015.

But that amount is relatively minor compared to what TFA is charging Windham, thanks to Special Master Steven Adamowski. Windham was required to pay $4,000 per recruit this year or 33 percent more than what Hartford and Bridgeport paid and 60 percent more than what New Haven paid.

While the finder fee issue is interesting enough, some of the contract language in the TFA contracts is equally bizarre.

List under “Credentialing Services,” the contracts states that, “Teach for America shall facilitate the enrollment of individual Teachers in an alternative certification/licensure program that will enable the individual Teacher to obtain appropriate credentials to be a classroom teacher of record.”

That makes sense…. If taxpayers are going to pay Teach for America to place teachers in our cities, rather than going through an open recruitment and hiring process, TFA should at least be responsible for making sure that teachers are getting their legally mandated credentials.

But the very next section of the contract reads, “Teach for America shall not be responsible for, and shall not be in breach of any provision of this Agreement, in the event of any failure by an individual Teacher to fulfill his/her obligations to maintain his/her teaching credentials.”

So TFA will get their recruits oriented in the right direction but they take no responsibility for making sure the recruits actually do the work necessary to get or maintain their credentials.

And if that isn’t strange enough, the contract goes on to read, “Non-Refund:  Teach for America shall have no obligation to refund to School District any amount paid by School District in respect of any Teacher for any reason whatsoever.  For the avoidance of doubt, School District will be invoiced fees for each of the individual Teacher(s) initially employed by the School District.”

Wait, what?

If the teacher doesn’t make it through day one TFA keeps their finder’s fee?

And then comes the ultimate kicker…

Even though the four contracts lay out the maximum number of positions that TFA recruits will take away from our ownm home-grown, Connecticut trained young teachers, each contract includes the following language…

“In the even that Teach for America supplies the School District with any Teachers above the Agreed Number, School District agrees to pay the agreed upon fees for the additional Teachers.”

So even if the contract says there will only be 20 TFA teachers, there appears to be an escape clause that allows school administrators and TFA to sneak in more.

So now the question is….

How many TFA recruits have been placed in New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport and Windham?

Check back because we’ll find out sooner rather than later!

Think Bridgeport’s TFA issue is bad, try Windham’s

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As reported yesterday and reprinted in today’s Washington Post, thanks to a deal between Paul Vallas and Nate Snow, the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America, Bridgeport hired another 31 TFA recruits this week.  The contract Vallas signed last spring committed the City of Bridgeport to hire 125 mostly out-of-state TFA recruits rather than give Connecticut residents, who have graduated with teaching certificates from Connecticut colleges, a chance to get these jobs. 

You can find yesterday’s Wait, What? post reprinted here: The Washington Post. 8-29-13

Thanks to the Vallas/TFA Bridgeport contract, Nate Snow’s Teach for America collected a cool $750,000 in finder’s fees for the effort.

But as insulting as that is to Connecticut’s new teachers and Bridgeport taxpayers, across the state, Governor Malloy’s Special Master for Windham, Steven Adamowski, signed a deal with Teach for America that is proportionately even more lucrative.

The Adamowski/TFA contract “only” calls for giving 20 Windham teaching jobs to TFA recruits rather than to new Connecticut teachers but the “fee” Windham must pay TFA is $4,000 per hear instead of the “$3,000 per year TFA is charging Bridgeport.  Neither Adamowski nor TFA clarify why Windham taxpayers are paying 33 percent more than are the taxpayers of Bridgeport.

But the bottom line is the same; With hundreds of new graduates from Connecticut’s teacher preparation programs, the state’s highest ranking education officials are literally using taxpayer funds to give away good paying jobs to people who, for the most part, don’t come from Connecticut, didn’t get their college education in Connecticut and didn’t even major in education.

Meanwhile, since taking office, Governor Malloy has pushed through the deepest state funding cuts in Connecticut history for our public colleges and universities.  As a result, Connecticut families are paying even more to attend UConn, Central, Southern, Eastern, Western and our state’s community colleges.  Earning a teaching degree at the University of Connecticut, while living on campus, could now cost as much as $125,000.

And how does Malloy, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and state appointed administrators like Paul Vallas and Steven Adamowski reward that commitment and dedication…they pay TFA to recruit non-teachers to fill what few job openings that there are out there.

Perhaps the most interesting fact of all is that Special Master Adamowski only assigned the TFA recruits to teach Windham students, a town with a disproportionately large minority and Latino student population.

The Windham Board of Education opened a beautiful new STEM magnet school this week.  As a magnet school, students from throughout the region are allowed to attend.  So how many TFA recruits did Adamowski assign to teach at the magnet school?   ZERO.

The TFA recruits were assigned to teach the students who didn’t get into the magnet school, while the magnet school was staffed primarily with longer-term Windham teachers who were transferred from the other district schools to the new magnet.

Finally, in response to a reader’s question about whether the minimally trained TFA recruits are paid less than traditional new teachers, the TFA contract between Bridgeport and Windham states;

“Every Teacher employed by School District as described in this Agreement shall be a full-time employee of School District with all of the rights, responsibilities and legal protections attendant to that status and not an employee of Teach for America. “

“School District shall provide to every Teacher employed by School District pursuant to this Agreement the same salary and benefits (including, as applicable, health, dental, vision and retirement) as are provided to other teachers employed by School District…”

“Subject to its obligations under pre-existing labor agreements…School Districts shall use reasonable efforts not to terminate any employed Teacher from his/her teaching position in the event of a reduction in force (RIF), layoffs, “leveling” or other elimination or consolidation of teaching positions within School District.  School District shall treat any Teacher employed in connection with this Agreement whose teaching position is eliminated at least as favorably as other teachers…”

So, the answer, in short, is that these TFA recruits immediately acquire the same rights and privileges of those who have actually gone through a full Connecticut teacher preparation program.

Connecticut TFA Director wants to open a charter school…in Bridgeport

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Yup, the Connecticut Director of Teach for America has submitted an application to open a charter school in Bridgeport.

Nate Snow arrived in Bridgeport in 2007 as a new TFA recruit.

Today he serves as the Executive Director for the Connecticut Chapter of Teach for America and President of the Board of Directors of Excel Bridgeport, Inc., a corporate funded education reform organization that he co-founded with Meghan Lowney, an aide to billionaire, hedge fund owner Steven Mandel.

Excel Bridgeport serves as the primary advocacy group supporting Governor Malloy, Mayor Bill Finch and “Superintendent of Schools” Paul Vallas’ education reform policies.

After graduating from Texas A&M University, Snow joined TFA and taught for two years in Bridgeport.  He then joined TFA’s fundraising operation and then made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Snow and Vallas recently signed a three-year contract between the Bridgeport Board of Education and Teach for America for $777,000, although the contract was never provided to the Board for their review and approval.  Team Vallas is claiming he has the authority to sign the contract without Board involvement.

And meanwhile, despite having no experience in school administration, Snow is the lead name on a charter school application that is pending before Paul Vallas and the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Snow’s proposal is to create a Montessori Charter School for children between the ages of three and thirteen.

As to Snow’s connection to TFA and Excel Bridgeport, a recent CT Post article reported that “The charter school idea, he said, is his own.”

According to their proposal, “Whittier’s Montessori program is inspired by the design and implementation of Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School (AFMMS), a high-performing public Montessori school in Hartford, Connecticut. Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School has distinguished itself by meeting high standards of student achievement through a meticulous, fully implemented Montessori program.”

Stephen Adamowski, who according to emails acquired through a Freedom of Information request, worked with Snow around Malloy’s education reform bill, was a strong proponent of Hartford’s Montessori school and now, as Malloy’s Special Master for Windham and New London has been working hard to get Windham to switch one of its elementary schools over to a Montessori school.

In the new Montessori charter school application, the proponents explain how they developed the plan saying, “Prior to preparing for this submission, none of the founders had worked with a Montessori school, but they knew that it was a good brand with an excellent reputation. Starting with a visit to the acclaimed Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School in Hartford, then undertaking conversations with parents who have children in private Montessori school in Fairfield County, and ending with informal consultations with Montessori leaders from around the country, the Founding members became convinced that Montessori should be an option for all children in Bridgeport. Nate Snow contacted the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (NCMPS), located in Hartford, for further information on what was necessary to start a public Montessori school. These discussions led to an eventual contract with NCMPS to assist in school design and to aid in writing the charter application.”

The charter school proposal aims to start with 69 students next fall and reach 209 students in its fifth year.  Their budget calls for expending $1.7 million in year one and at least $3.8 million in year five.

While state charter schools get their money primarily from a state grant, Snow and his colleagues are trying to open a “local” charter school, meaning the funds would come mostly from Bridgeport’s school budget, with an extra $3,000 per student coming from a new state “local charter grant” that was part of Malloy’s education reform law.  Malloy’s education reform law also included a series of $500,000 “start-up grants” that charter schools could get from the state.  Snow and company are counting on getting one of those grants, as well.

In addition, the cost of transportation and special education costs would be paid for by the Bridgeport Board of Education.

Bridgeport is already well into the 60 day local charter review process.  The application, if approved, would then go to Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the state Board of Education.

As to the various players behind the proposal, Wait What? readers may recall that starting in January 2011, Meghan Lowney, Nate Snow and Excel Bridgeport worked to persuade the Connecticut State Board of Education to take over the Bridgeport School System.  Over the course of the six months leading up to the State Board of Education’s illegal takeover, Lowney, Snow and Excel Bridgeport engaged in numerous communications with state officials.

Despite their ongoing lobbying, both before and during the illegal takeover and throughout the effort to persuade legislators to support Malloy’s education reform bill, neither Lowney, Snow nor Excel Bridgeport registered to lobby with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, as required by law.

More than two weeks after the end of the 2012 Legislative session, Excel Bridgeport finally filed the required papers, listing Jorge Cabrera as the organization’s lead lobbyist.

Excel Bridgeport, a group initially called the Bridgeport Partnership for School Success, Inc., was created in December 2010 and then changed its name to Excel Bridgeport Inc. in September 2011.

According to its incorporation papers, Meghan Lowney, the Executive Director of the Zoom Foundation, (the personal foundation of Fairfield County billionaire Stephen Mandel), was registered as Excel Bridgeport, Inc.’s founding president and Nathan Snow, the Executive Director of Connecticut’s Teach for America Chapter served as the organization’s founding vice president.

Snow then took over the role as Excel’s president.   A board was also created made up of Jonathan Hayes (Executive, Meetinghouse Productions), Joel Green (Partner, Green & Gross, PC), Robert Francis (Executive Director, RYASAP), Carl Horton, Jr. (Consultant, Accenture), Scott Hughes (City Librarian, Bridgeport Public Library), Meghan Lowney (Executive Director, ZOOM Foundation) and Joseph McGee (Vice President, Fairfield County Business Council).  Like Snow, Francis, the Executive Director of RYASAP, also has a contract with the Bridgeport Board of Education.

As of now, Lowney and Snow have still not registered to lobby despite their ongoing efforts to influence public policy.

Meanwhile, faced with inadequate state resources, and Mayor Finch’s need to come up with $3.2 million more just to meet the state’s minimum local expenditure law, it will be interesting to see if Paul Vallas, the Bridgeport Board of Education and Commissioner Stefan Pryor divert dollars to their colleague Nate Snow and his proposal for a new Montessori charter school.

TFA contracts ignore the evidence – and Malloy’s own rhetoric – another must read piece by Sarah Darer Littman

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CTNewsjunkie columnist, Sarah Darer Littman published another “must read” piece in last weekend’s CTNewsjunkie (see link)

In it, Littman tackles the issues surrounding the efforts to enhance the teaching profession, provide opportunities for young people to serve their communities by teaching in urban and poor schools systems and the political/lobbying apparatus that is known as Teach for America.

During a recent college tour, Littman and her daughter, who wants to be a teacher, ran straight into the paradox that one path to teaching is through investing, “four, possibly five years pursuing a double major in a subject area and education” or simply graduating from college and trading a two-year commitment to Teach for America in return for a brief training program and a guaranteed job in a classroom as a teacher.

Teach for America bristles at the notion that they are anything but a force for good, but as Littman notes, the issues are far more complex than that.

She cites a professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University who recently wrote in the Washington Post that TFA’s message is that college grads can “use teaching in high-poverty areas as a stepping stone to a career in business.” Littman correctly writes that such an approach is “not only disrespectful to every person who chooses to commit their life to the teaching profession, it effectively advocated using students in high-poverty areas as guinea pigs for an experiment in “resume-padding” for ambitious young people.”

And the evidence lays out the case that it is our poor, urban districts that are the petri dishes for the experiment.  As Littman writes, “Back in February 2012, as part of his Education Reform Bill, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy called for tougher standards for teacher education programs. Yet the most troubled districts in Connecticut, the “turnaround” districts, are the ones where one finds the most TFA corps members, who show up in classrooms after five weeks of training.”

Littman goes on to examine the evidence about the effectiveness of the TFA program.

Agree or disagree about what the future of the TFA and TFA like programs should be, everyone interested in the subject should take the time to read Littman’s latest piece.  Here complete Op. Ed. can be read here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/op-ed_tfa_contracts_ignore_the_evidence_-_and_malloys_own_rhetoric/

 

The solution to everything: More Standardized Testing!

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Public education experts Diane Ravitch and Gary Rubinstein write about a recent letter from 30 plus “education reform” groups to Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

The “education reformer’s” message; standardized test scores should be used to measure the effectiveness of teacher training programs in the United States.

No don’t laugh, these people are for real.

Here is what they want. Colleges graduate teachers; teachers get hired; the teacher’s students take standardized tests; the standardized test score not only determine which teachers are retained and which are fired, but the scores are also used to determine whether the colleges that trained them should get more or less funding.

Their plan completely fails to take into consideration the role poverty, language barriers and special education needs play in influencing standardized test scores.

What will happen?  Universities and colleges that push their teachers to teach in high income, low need areas will show their “worth” by having graduates that have students that produce consistently high test scores.  Colleges and Universities that urge their students to tackle the most difficult teaching environments, poor, inner city schools, will run the risk of being labeled “failures,” because the students of those graduates won’t score high enough on standardized tests.

Who would even think of such a stupid plan, let alone work to get the Obama Administration to implement it?

A group of 30 charter school management companies…

And who is at the top of the list of organizations signing the letter.

Connecticut’s own Achievement First Inc., the large charter school management firm that was founded, in part, by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

And another group behind the effort, ConnCAN, the charter school lobby organization, that was set up by the directors of Achievement First.

And 50CAN, the national off-shoot of ConnCAN, also set up by Achievement First’s directors is pushing the absurd concept.

Other organizations behind the effort are “Teach for America, StudentsFirst, Democrats for Education Reform (the Wall Street hedge fund managers), The New Teacher Project, Jeb Bush’s rightwing Chiefs for Change and his Foundation for Educational Excellence.”

Read Diane Ravitch’s blog here:  http://dianeravitch.net/2012/09/04/talk-about-nerve/

And Gary Rubinstein’s blog here: http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2012/09/04/tfa-implores-obama-administration-to-hold-teacher-preparation-programs-accountable/

As Diane Ravitch notes, “these people and these organizations are wrong. They are driving American education in a destructive direction. They will reduce children to data points, as the organizations thrive…”

The time to stop the standardized testing madness is now.

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