To blog or not to blog?

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That is the question…

In these difficult times, many of us are grappling with the question – How can one be useful and relevant in what increasingly appears to be a new dystopian age.  (Look up the word dystopian if you don’t know what it means).

Coming off my recent “campaign” for governor, I find this question to be particularly vexing.

In particular, do I continue to use my blog to raise what I perceive to be legitimate issues about the state of our state or do I throw in the towel and move on to something new?

For guidance I sought the advice of the “Common Core Guru.” You can find it under a local bridge, hanging out with three Billy Goats Gruff.  He suggested that I utilize a writing prompt to explore my deepest feelings and emotions about how to proceed.

To explore that path, the Common Core Guru suggested I use the writing prompt, “What I learned on my summer vacation?”

But, truth be told, I remain troubled by this advice because I recognize that, thanks to Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy, Stefan Pryor (Malloy’s Commissioner of Education) and their merry band of corporate education reform industry groupies, that anything I write will be judged – not by humans – but by the Automated Essay Scoring (AES) System that accompanies the unfair, ill-conceived, inappropriate and expensive Common Core Testing Scheme.

As the SBAC Common Core industry has explained,

In 2010, when it was starting to develop the new Common Core exams for its 24 member states (Connecticut being one of them), the group wanted to use machines to grade 100 percent of the writing.

“Our initial estimates were assuming we could do everything by machine, but we’ve changed that,” said Jacqueline King, a director at Smarter Balanced.

Now, 40 percent of the writing section, 40 percent of the written responses in the reading section and 25 percent of the written responses in the math section will be scored by humans.

“The technology hasn’t moved ahead as fast as we thought,” King said.

But still, let’s face it, despite the failure of the technology as we “move forward,” 60% of the tests will still be scored by computers.

And as one expert recently noted,

AES algorithms can be gamed.  That is, a critic of AES can write a nonsensical piece that the AES engine will score with a high score point.  Critics cite this fact as a fatal flaw in AES.  However, to write the “hot mess” that receives a high score, the critic must be fully versed in many of the aspects that make writing strong:  a wide vocabulary, a variety of sentence lengths, a variety of sentence types, use of transitions, grammatical correctness, etc. In other words, an AES can only be tricked by a good writer.

So to trick the computer you have to be a good writer…

Which returns me to the fundamental question, how best should I proceed?

In a blog post about the issue, fellow public education blogger Alice Mercer wrote;

Basically, the programs can judge grammar and usage errors (although I suspect it will lead to a very stilted form of writing that only a computer could love), but it’s not in the position to judge the facts and assertions, or content in an essay.  The only way to do that is to limit students to what “facts” they are using by giving them a list.

And friend and fellow blogger Anthony Cody added,

If this is the “Smarter” test, it seems far less intelligent than a qualified teacher, capable of challenging students with an open-ended question. And if we are sacrificing intelligence, creativity and critical thinking for the sake of the efficiency and standardization provided by a computer, this seems a very poor trade.

All of which leaves one very confused!

Because, if truth be told, as I contemplate continuing my Wait, What? blog or calling it a day, I’m left wondering how relevant a blog could even be in Governor Malloy’s Common Core world?

God knows, along with my readers, that my understanding of grammar and spelling is, at best, limited.

And if the computer is looking for “a wide vocabulary, a variety of sentence lengths, a variety of sentence types, use of transitions [and] grammatical correctness” then maybe the time has come to accept that fact that I should throw in the towel and admit that my notion of right and wrong simply can’t compete against the computer’s understanding of the Common Core and its associated testing scheme.

Finally, in conclusion, let me say that advice from the peanut gallery, let alone my readers, would be welcome.

Oh and by the way, you get an extra point if you know where the term “peanut gallery” comes from.

By the way, if I don’t continue with my blog, Wait, What?, I have to admit that I do have a second blog set up and ready to go.

It will be called, “Failure is an Option.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have had a restful, rejuvenating and safe Labor Day weekend and I wish you well as we head into the remainder of 2014.

Jonathan

Malloy administration considered “restraining order” to stop FOI requests?

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In what may be the single most bizarre development yet in the Malloy administration’s war on teachers and public education and their ongoing commitment to secrecy, a recent Freedom of Information request has produced an email between Governor Malloy’s Director of Communications and a senior official from ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group, in which they discuss what appears to be the Malloy’s administration’s effort to get a restraining order to prevent FOI requests about Malloy’s education reform efforts.

In the email to Governor Malloy’s Director of Communications, ConnCAN’s Jordan Fenster wrote,

Andrew,

Just following up on our conversation today. Any info you may have on a restraining order of any kind against Jon Pelto, (requested by the administration) would be great. It may have something to do with SDE, considering all the FOI requests and negative press he’s been throwing in that direction. 

My cell number, if you lost it, is XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Thanks,

Jordan

The email is dated April 23, 2013, which coincides with a series of Wait, What? posts about the $35,500 public opinion poll that ConnCAN conducted to help make Malloy’s education reform initiative appear more popular.

It was also the time-period in which Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, was engaged in his extended effort to help Paul Vallas circumvent Connecticut law so that Vallas could remain as head of Bridgeport’s School System.

While getting “negative press” may be annoying to politicians, the notion that Governor Malloy’s administration would consider pursuing a “restraining order” to prevent Freedom of Information requests is extremely disturbing considering the fundamental right that citizens have to get access to public information.

Even the notion that government officials would consider corrupting the legal system to quell political opposition is chilling.

Interestingly, the disk of emails that was released by Malloy’s office as a result of the recent FOI request does not contain any other communication that mentions a possible “restraining order” against me or the Wait, What? blog.

However, an FOI request that was submitted to Commission Pryor and the State Department of Education on the same subject remains unanswered.

ConnCAN is the charter school lobbying group that led the record-breaking $6 million lobbying and public relations effort in support of Malloy’s education reform initiative.

Jordan Fenster is the senior writer and editor for ConnCAN.  Before he worked for ConnCAN, Fenster worked as the political reporter for the New Haven Register.

Diane Ravitch Speech at the Network of Public Education Conference

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Here is a link to Diane Ravitch’s inspiring speech at last weekend’s Network of Public Education Conference in Austin Texas.

http://www.schoolhouselive.org/

I was particularly honored and appreciative that Diane would recognize my efforts and my blog in her speech.

As background,

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society. Our mission is to protect, preserve, promote, and strengthen public schools and the education of current and future generations of students. We will accomplish this by networking groups and organizations focused on similar goals in states and districts throughout the nation, share information about what works and what doesn’t work in public education, and endorse and rate candidates for office based on our principles and goals. More specifically, we will support candidates who oppose high-stakes testing, mass school closures, the privatization of our public schools and the outsourcing of its core functions to for-profit corporations, and we will support candidates who work for evidence-based reforms that will improve our schools and the education of our nation’s children.

The Network for Public Education Conference ended with a press conference calling for Congressional hearings to investigate the over-emphasis, misapplication, costs, and poor implementation of high-stakes standardized testing in the nation’s K-12 public schools.

The press release stated,

In a Closing Keynote address to some 500 attendees, education historian and NYU professor Diane Ravitch, an NPE founder and Board President, accused current education policies mandated by the federal government, such as President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top, of making high-stakes standardized testing “the purpose of education, rather than a measure of education.”

The call for Congressional hearings – addressed to Senators Lamar Alexander and Tom Harkin of the Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee, and Representatives John Kline and George Miller of the House Education and Workforce Committee – states that high-stakes testing in public schools has led to multiple unintended consequences that warrant federal scrutiny. NPE asks Congressional leaders to pursue eleven potential inquiries, including, “Do the tests promote skills our children and our economy need?” and “Are tests being given to children who are too young?”

 

“We have learned some valuable lessons about the unintended costs of test-driven reform over the past decade. Unfortunately, many of our nation’s policies do not reflect this,” stated NPE Executive Director Robin Hiller. “We need Congress to investigate and take steps to correct the systematic overuse of testing in our schools.”

“Our system is being rendered less intelligent by the belief that ‘rigor’ equates to ever more difficult tests,” warned NPE Treasurer Anthony Cody. “True intelligence in the 21st century depends on creativity and problem-solving, and this cannot be packaged into a test. We need to invest in classrooms, in making sure teachers have the small class sizes, resources, and support they need to succeed. We need to stop wasting time and money in the pursuit of test scores.”

You can read more about NPE and join the organization at:  http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/

You can also read about the call for hearings at:  http://www.networkforpubliceducation.org/2014/03/npe-calls-for-congressional-hearings-full-text/

From Diane Ravitch: The Best of 2013: The Great Awakening about the Status Quo

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America’s leading public education advocate has written a series of blog posts as we leave 2013 and move into the New Year.

Her wisdom, perception, courage and conviction continue to inspire tens of thousands of teachers, parents, public education advocates and citizens across the country … and with each passing day, thousands more join the battle to take back our public school system from the corporate education reform industry.

As she took a look back on 2013, I am particularly proud that she listed the pro-public education uprising and victory in Bridgeport among the major national highlights of the year.

I am also deeply honored that she saw fit to make note of my work and the work of dozens of other bloggers around the nation.

As Diane wrote;

Farewell to 2013. It was a year of beginnings, a year that launched a fundamental change in the debate about what constitutes true education “reform.”

More and more parents and teachers are awakening to the realization that the word “reform” has been hijacked by people who want to dismantle public education and the teaching profession. Those who have boldly named themselves the “reformers” are all too often working on behalf of turning public dollars over to private interests and to strip teachers of any due process, any collective-bargaining rights, any salary increment linked to their experience or their education. These so-called “reformers” reify test scores, making them the be-all and end-all of education and are eager to fire teachers and principals whose students don’t get the test scores that the computer says they should, and equally eager to close public schools with low scores and replace them with privately managed schools that all too often escape the same scrutiny as the public schools they replaced. The “reformers” care not at all about class size, indeed, they say they would prefer larger classes with “better teachers,” even though teachers say they can be better teachers with smaller classes, especially given the diversity of students in most public schools today, some of whom have disabilities, some of whom are learning English.

Our educators and schools now live under a Sword of Damocles fashioned by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Those who cannot produce higher scores are doomed. This is madness. This is a game rigged to harm public schools, which is a fundamental institution of our democracy.

The good news in 2013 was that parents, educators, and citizens began organizing and rising up in opposition to the status quo controlled by the fake “reformers.”

Here are some of the high points of 2013 in the battle against the status quo:

1. High school students began organizing to fight high-stakes testing and school closings. The leading edge of student opposition has been the Providence Student Union, which has deployed intelligence and wit to lead the battle against the state’s use of a standardized test (with the appropriate acronym of NECAP) as a graduation requirement. The students are fighting because they know that the weakest among them will fall on the low end of the bell curve and be denied a diploma, which will knee-cap them for the rest of their life.

2. Ethan Young, a high school student in Tennessee, appeared before the Knox County School Board, to express his opposition to Common Core, and the video of his five-minute appearance went viral, having been viewed some 2 million times on YouTube.

3. In Tennessee, parents organized a group called the Momma Bears. They blog, post on Facebook, and organize protests against the efforts of Governor Haslam and Commissioner Kevin Huffman to take over their public schools and demoralize their children’s teachers. Why do they call themselves “Momma Bears?” They say on their website:

“Momma Bears defend and support children and public schools. Momma Bears realize that quality public education is a right for every child. There are greedy corporations and politicians eager to destroy and profit from our American public school system and vulnerable children. Momma Bears are united in defending and protecting our young and their future from these threats.

“It is our hope that this group will connect lots and lots of Momma Bears, because we are stronger together than as individuals. Together, we must protect our children and public schools and we must also support the teachers who nurture, inspire, and protect our children.”

4. Forty percent of district superintendents in Tennessee signed a letter to Governor Haslam calling on him to rein in Commissioner Huffman, who is intent on shoving his “reforms” down the throat of every educator, without ever listening to experienced educators (when the letter went public, a handful of the superintendents removed their names, fearful of reprisals). After all, he did have two years as a Teach for America recruit, then served as communications director for TFA, before being selected to redesign the education system of the state of Tennessee. Huffman is pushing charter schools and doing his best to demoralize the teachers of Tennessee by tying their evaluations to test scores, not to experience or education or any other factor that matters more than test scores.

5. Thanks to the energetic parents of Texas who joined TAMSA (Texans Advocating for Meaningful Assessment), the legislature passed SB5, which rolled back a requirement that seniors needed to pass 15 tests to graduate from high school. In the future, they will need to pass five tests, not 15.

6. The implementation of Common Core testing in New York state created a firestorm of opposition to Common Core, to testing, and to the educator evaluation system cobbled together by the State Education Department. Neither teachers nor students were prepared for the new Common Core tests, which had an absurdly high passing mark. 70% of the students in the state “failed,” including 97% of English learners, 95% of students with disabilities, and more than 80% of black and Hispanic students. Parents were outraged by the state’s imposition of standards and tests for which their students were not prepared, based on material they had not studied. State Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents dismissed parent complaints, and Secretary Arne Duncan brushed them off as the whining of “white suburban moms” who were disappointed to learn that their child was not as brilliant as they thought and their public school was not as good as they thought. This angered parents even more, and Long Island may well be the epicenter of a massive opt-out from state testing in spring 2014.

7. The teachers of Garfield High School in Seattle voted unanimously not to give the MAP test, which they agreed was useless. They said the test was a waste of time and resources, and they would not do it. Faced with threats of suspension and pay cuts, they stood firm. They won. There were no punishments, and they won the admiration of teachers and parents across the nation.

8. The Badass Teachers Association, organized in 2013, now counts 35,000 members across the nation. These are the fearless activists who will not tolerate the punishments meted out by the guardians of the status quo. Their motto: “This is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.”

9. Some of the candidates opposed by the “reformers” managed to win their elections, despite being overwhelmingly outspent by corporate funders (in many cases, the corporate funders lived thousands of miles away). Among the winners who fought off the “reform” money machine were Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff in Los Angeles, Sue Peters in Seattle, and the winning candidates who took control of the school board in Bridgeport, Connecticut, signaling the end of the Paul Vallas era in that small city.

10. It is impossible to overestimate the power of social media in establishing communication among pro-public education bloggers. The bloggers have done an amazing job of informing people across the nation about what is happening in their district and in their state, and building awareness that the attacks on public education are not sporadic and are not local. They are heavily funded by a handful of millionaires and billionaires and passed through groups like Stand for Children, ALEC, Democrats for Education Reform, and 50CAN, who use their funding to advocate for privatization, for high-stakes testing, for evaluating teachers by test scores, and for stripping teachers of any due process so that experienced teachers may easily be replaced by newcomers who will work at entry-level wages and leave without ever collecting a pension. All of us are far better informed because of the remarkable and persistent bloggers in Ohio, Indiana, Connecticut (a special shout-out to Jonathan Pelto!), Florida, Texas, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico, Louisiana, and every other state. They have blown the whistle again and again to call attention to financial misdeeds and frauds against students and teachers. Thank you, bloggers!

11. In North Carolina, a reactionary governor and legislature were elected in 2012, and they passed bill after bill to destroy public education and to turn teachers into temporary workers. In response, concerned citizens organized a weekly protest before the Legislature called Moral Mondays, where they gathered to show their opposition to the attacks on the public sector and on valued institutions.

12. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 12-year reign in office (extended by a controversial overturn of a term-limits law passed by voters twice) finally came to an end. Polls showed that his most unpopular issue was education, where only 22-26% of voters approved his harsh and punitive reform policies of closing public schools, grading schools, rating teachers based on student test scores, opening hundreds of small schools, and favoring charter schools with free public space. Among the many contenders for the office, Bill de Blasio was elected. De Blasio was the candidate who most sharply disagreed with Bloomberg’s education “reforms” and promised change. De Blasio pledged a moratorium on school closings and co-location of charters in public schools; he pledged to abolish the A-F grading system. And he promised to listen to parents and communities, unlike Bloomberg, who viewed parents and communities as a nuisance and obstacles that could be easily ignored.

13. Grassroots groups opposing the assault on public education and attacks on teachers formed in many states and continue to form. In spring 2013, Anthony Cody and I, along with a group of other concerned educators formed the Network for Public Education in spring 2013, specifically to identify and encourage the many grassroots groups across the nation and to help them find one another. In addition, part of our mission is to endorse candidates who support public education in local and state races for school board.

As parents, educators, and other citizens were mobilizing to support their schools, the faux reformers sustained a number of notable setbacks. I can’t list them all here. This is only a sampling. Suffice it to note that none of the “reforms” mandated by No Child Left Behind, required by Race to the Top and by Arne Duncan’s waivers, and advocated by corporate reformers has any evidence to support it. Lots of bad news for “reformers” in 2013, including the following:

1. One of the nation’s pre-eminent scholars of testing, Edward Haertel, explained in an important lecture to the Education Testing Service why value-added-modeling (VAM) was being misused by policymakers. Its value in evaluating teachers, he said, was seriously overstated. This policy happens to be the linchpin of Race to the Top, and its use is now commonplace in most states, despite the fact that the research base for it is not only weak but indicates that the current use of VAM is junk science.

2. The Louisiana State Supreme Court struck down funding for vouchers and course choice (from non-public school providers) by a vote of 6-1. Governor Bobby Jindal had planned to fund his privatization program by taking money away from the minimum foundation funding for public schools. However, the state constitution restricts public funding to public elementary and secondary schools. This forced Governor Bobby Jindal and the legislature to find another source for funding vouchers and course choice.

3. The first year report on the Louisiana voucher schools showed that nearly half the students were enrolled in schools rated D or F by the state, showing that (contrary to the voucher boosters), students were not “escaping from failing public schools,” but transferring from public schools with low ratings (based on test scores) to private schools with equally low ratings (based on test scores). Voucher schools, however, are not held to the same standards of accountability as public schools.

4. John Merrow, who had featured Michelle Rhee on a dozen occasions on PBS and helped to make her a media star, turned his tough investigative eye to allegations of cheating in D.C. during her tenure and was not upset to find that the allegations were swept under the rug. He asked a series of tough questions, which Rhee ignored and deflected.

5. G.F. Brandenburg and John Merrow deconstructed the NAEP gains made by D.C., pointing out that the trend lines were continuous with those that preceded Rhee and that D.C. continues to be one of the lowest performing districts in the nation. Arne Duncan and Rhee brandished the D.C. scores as “proof” that get-tough policies aimed at teachers work;

6. We learned how easily the A-F school grading system can be distorted when Tom LoBianco of the AP revealed emails showing that Tony Bennett, state superintendent of Indiana, had manipulated the A-F grading system to raise the score of a charter school founded by a prominent campaign contributor. Bennett, defeated in 2012, had moved on to Florida, where he was Commissioner of Education when the story broke. He resigned his position.

7. “Reformers” and major corporations have turned Common Core into a battle cry, but the more they push, the greater the resistance from parents and teachers who fear that the purpose of Common Core is to make public schools look bad and advance the privatization movement. Mercedes Schneider has tracked the money trail that created Common Core, attributing nearly $200 million in spending to the Gates Foundation, spread liberally among the creators of CCSS, as well as groups paid to evaluate and promote them. At last count, there was growing controversy over the CCSS and high-stakes testing connected to it in at least 23 of the 45 states that adopted them in response to federal lures.

8. Common Core will require districts and states to spent millions on technology and materials to implement it at a time of budget cuts. As teachers, librarians, social workers, and nurses are laid off, huge amounts of money will pay for technology and bandwidth for Common Core testing, all of which will be online. Los Angeles presented the perfect model of the costs that accompany Common Core when Superintendent John Deasy pledged to spend $1 billion to buy iPads for all students and staff, money taken from a school construction bond issue passed by voters. This means that the funds will not be available for school construction or repairs because they are being used to buy iPads loaded with Pearson curriculum; both the iPads and the Pearson content will be obsolete within 3-4 years (when the Pearson contract expires and the iPads must be replaced). Where will the money come from next time? Will voters pass another bond issue, without knowing how it will be spent?

You can read this full blog at:  The Best of 2013: The Great Awakening about the Status Quo

If you don’t subscribe to Diane’s blog you are missing out on the most important source of information about public education and the battle against the corporate education reform industry.  You can subscribe by going to: http://dianeravitch.net/ (and then scroll down to the bottom of the page for the sign up form).

Wait, What? Could Still Use Your Your Help…

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“Last Call: Please help build the Wait, What? blog”

Dear Friends,

Last financial request for 2013! (I promise)

To donate go to:  Wait,What? Donation Page

Wait, What? could really use your help.

As Wait, What? readers know, using one of his two pseudonyms Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry or a stand-in for him, made the claim last week on the blog that Wait? What? is funded by Connecticut’s teachers unions.

When I explained that Wait, What’s sole financial support come from the generosity of readers and a little advertising revenue from the ads that run along with side of the blog, the Perry-like voice seemed to suggested that unions must be handing out money to people so that they could donate (or something to that extent).  One is never quite sure what is meant by his rants and tirades.

I will say that some of my best friends are teachers and I teachers, unions or anyone else are welcome to donate.

In recent days you may have received emails from Connecticut’s two newspapers – CT Newsjunkie and CT Mirror.

So I thought I’d make one last request for the year as well.

A number of Wait, What? readers have already donated this fall and I appreciate their support more than words can convey.

To those who haven’t yet donated, any financial support, no matter how small (or large) would be extraordinarily helpful as I close out the year.

Thank you very much,

Jonathan Pelto

If you would prefer, donations can be made by check.  Contributions should be made out to Wait, What? and sent c/o Jonathan Pelto, PO Box 400, Storrs, CT. 06268

Contributions are not tax-deductible, nor do they qualify as campaign donations.  They are simply donations toward the maintenance of Wait, What

To donate go to:  Wait,What? Donation Page

Wait, What? surpasses the 1 million visitor mark

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As the Wait, What? blog approaches its 3rd anniversary, it has blown past the 1 million visitor mark!

Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.”Leo Tolstoy

Even more incredible, almost 15,000 comments have been posted to the site.

“It is not when truth is dirty, but when it is shallow, that the lover of knowledge is reluctant to step into its waters.”Friedrich Nietzsche

In addition to all of those who have come to Wait, What? to read and comment on the posts, on more than 225,000 occasions, subscribers have taken the time to open their emails containing new articles.

“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell

If you are not presently a subscriber, you can easily become one by signing up using the form that is in the upper-right hand corner of the Wait, What? blog.

I am deeply humbled and extremely proud of what we have done over the past three years to spread the light of truth.

I apologize for all the typos and for the far more serious, but thankfully more rare, times in which I have failed to provide the correct facts or have had information that was out of place.

With each passing day we continue to build upon our efforts to educate, persuade and mobilize our fellow citizens.

Readers know that I am fond of borrowing the quotes of others who have found a more eloquent way to convey some critically important point…

So I will end by saying – as we have been; we will remain driven by the truth and by the meaning of these three fundamental quotes:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

*****

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi 

*****

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.” – Martin Niemöller

*****

Thank you all for what you have done to help create, grow and enhance Wait, What?

May the blessings of the season bring you light, health, happiness and love.

Together we will continue to strive to make a difference in our world.

Jonathan 
([email protected])

Hartford, Steve Perry and his threat make the Washington Post

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Let the celebration begin!  Connecticut has made national news!

Oh, but wait… it’s not quite the type of news that will bring tourists to the Still Revolutionary state or induce businesses to move to Connecticut.

The story is about Capital Prep Principal Steve Perry and the controversy that has consumed Perry and his bizarre rhetoric and antics.

The media outlet:  The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, the nation’s leading education blog.

Valerie Strauss begins her article with the Perry’s now familiar tweet;

The only way to lose a fight is to stop fighting. All this did was piss me off. It’s so on. Strap up, there will be head injuries.

 

And the Washington Post reporter then adds;

“That’s not a tweet that any school principal or teacher who I know could publish and keep their job, but for Steve Perry, the out-there founder and principal of the publicCapital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Conn., it was just another day on Twitter.

Perry is a school reformer in the scorched-earth camp of Michelle Rhee, and has a Web site that identifies him as ”America’s Most Trusted Educator” and notes that  his “heart pumps passion and produces positive change,” and that he is “the most talked about innovative educator on the scene today.” He is the author of  the book “Push Has Come To Shove: Getting Our Kids the Education They Deserve — Even If It Means Picking a Fight.” He is a  traveling partner with Rhee, a vitriolic union-basher, a prolific speech maker  and an even more energetic tweeter (he’s put out more than 31,000). His Web site also says he is a CNN and MSNBC contributor.

The tweet above was one in a fusillade that Perry unleashed after the majority of the Hartford Board of Education on Tuesday rejected a deal, supported by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the school board’s chairman, Matt Poland, to allow Perry to stop being a public employee and run the public school, along with a second school, through a nonprofit charter management company that he founded and for which he serves as president. The Courant reported that Perry is listed in state corporation records as president of Capital Preparatory Schools Inc., registered in February 2012. The organization is also listed on Guidestar, an online information service specializing in nonprofit organization, as being at the same address in Hartford as Capital Preparatory Magnet School.

Perry originally started Capital Prep as a charter school, but  it became a grade 6-12 magnet school in the traditional public schools system because, he has said, he didn’t have enough resources to do what he wanted as a charter. He adopted a year-round school calendar along with a tough “no excuses” operational approach that some parents heartily support.

Perry’s Web site says: “Capital Prep has sent 100% of its predominantly low-income, minority, first-generation high school graduates to four-year colleges every year since its first class graduated in 2006,” though critics say that characterization shades the fact that the school has a high attrition rate; for example 35 percent of the students in the class of 2011 who entered as freshmen did not reach their senior year, according to a New Jersey teacher who authors a popular blog under the name of Jersey Jazzman and who has been writing extensively about Perry.

Perry is at least as well known for running a school as for making inflammatory statements about things he doesn’t like, especially but not exclusively teachers unions. For example, he said the following this year at a forum hosted by the  Minneapolis Foundation and co-hosted by Minnesota Public Radio, as reported by the Perry-friendly Education Action Group Foundation:

“I know in polite company, you’re not supposed to talk about the unions,” Perry said. “But I will. I know you’re here. I hope you hear me, because I’m tired of you. Every time you fight to keep a failed teacher in a school, you’re killing children, and that’s not cool.

“Every single time you make a job harder to remove someone who is simply not educating, and everybody in the building knows they’re not educating, you’re killing your profession, you’re killing our community and you’re making it harder on yourselves.

“It’s high time we call the roaches out and call them for what they are. I’ve been to too many cities where the excuses pile up, one on top of the other. You know what happens with those excuses? They kill our kids.”

His appearance drew heated criticism and praise, which you can read about here.”

The Washington Post’s Strauss then goes into a detailed review of Capital Prep’s and the fact that Perry’s rhetoric about the success of his schools fails to stand up to the most basic review.  You can read the full details here:  Principal gets mad and tweets: ‘Strap up, there will be head injuries.

And Strauss closes with the observation;

“Meanwhile, Perry keeps sounding off when the mood suits him, as Jonathan Pelto,  a former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives who now provides commentary on politics and public policy at his blog, Wait What?, consistently reports.  Assuming Perry didn’t mean to be taken literally with his “Strap up, there will be head injuries,” nonsense, his comments still beg this question: Why do his bosses allow him to say things that would get just about anybody else fired?”

You can read the full article here:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/11/21/principal-gets-mad-and-tweets-strap-up-there-will-be-head-injuries/

Comparing Wait, What? to CTEducation180…Now that is just going too far…

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Call it a Father’s Day perogative, but I’m going to take a moment away from my on-going effort to educate, persuade and mobilize through “perceptive and acerbic” observations about Connecticut Government and Politics.

Normally I don’t respond to personal attacks or ill-informed commentaries that are leveled against my own commentaries.

Truth be told, I’ve always believed in Voltaire’s famous quote which goes, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  In fact, I even believe in the more direct version of his statement which can be found in a letter he wrote on February 6, 1770, and reads, “Monsieur l’abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.”

That said, I do feel moved to respond to the observations contained in an Op. Ed. written by Terry Cowgill and published today on the CTNewsjunkie site.  The piece, “Dueling Blogs: Don’t Leave Education to the Experts,” opines about my blog, Wait, What? , claiming that I “inveigh” and my writing is “polemic.”  He even goes so far as to suggest that my opposition to the reforms being sponsored by the corporate funded education-industrial complex means that I “prefer the system the way it is.”

Now, I’m certainly open to criticism.  For example, I most definitely fall down on the job when it comes to proofreading and punctuation and my failings related to properly spelling are somewhat legendary.  Heck, I’ll even plead the Fifth when comes to the possibility that I “inveigh” from time to time or that my writing could be considered “polemic” now and then.

But to suggest that I support “the system” are fighting words…

Or worse, to compare my blog to CTEducation180, a mouth-piece of ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy organization that is connected to Commissioner Stefan Pryor’s Achievement First charter school management company, well that is going too far.

Before I go on, let me quote from Mr. Cowgill’s recent piece in case my readers haven’t had a chance to read his piece.  After noting the rise of blogs, he writes, “Here in Connecticut, the phenomenon has been most visible lately in the arena of education, where former Democratic state representative Jonathan Pelto inveighs against Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and anyone who carries the mantle of “education reform.” Pelto’s blog, “Wait, What?” is a must-read for diehard public education advocates who, for obvious reasons, prefer the system the way it is.”

Cowgill adds “Pelto’s ceaseless attacks have enraged reformers who have complained that his propaganda was going unanswered. Enter PR guru and political analyst Patrick Scully, a former communications director for the state Senate Democrats. In an effort to confront Pelto last year, Scully started writing in response on his Hanging Shad blog, and also wrote for a time for the pro-reformist blog, CTEducation180, which is operated by ConnCAN. Between the two blogs, Scully devoted a great deal of real estate to deconstructing Pelto’s polemics. He stopped writing for CTEducation180 in March.”

Now, first let me say that I’d like to believe that my blog, Wait, What? represents a growing form of advocacy journalism.  I am but a foot solider in a broader effort to fill the gap that has resulted from the de-evolution of the so-called mass media.  My blog and I are dedicated to investigating and reporting on the truth, so that citizens across the political spectrum have the information they need and deserve to make informed decisions.  I definitely don’t hide my philosophical orientation, but the purpose of my blog and its work is to report the facts, as I see them, along with my political commentary and observations.

I’ll leave to others the task of comparing me to “PR guru and political analyst Patrick Scully,” but to compare Wait, What? to the drivel posted on CTEducation180 is beyond insulting.

CTEducation180 is a blog written by ConnCAN staff.  Cowgill says Scully stopped writing in March, but for months now the posts have apparently been authored by someone named Michael.  Although a couple of weeks ago, ConnCAN went back and removed Michael’s name from all of the posts.

More to the point I’d argue that comparing the two blogs is, at best, comparing apples and oranges. Wait, What? is dedicated to telling the truth.  CTEducation180 is dedicated to attacking those of us who are telling the truth.

As evidence, I’ll simply cut and paste a few of the recent things that have appeared on the ConnCAN blog More

Defending Public Education: “You may know a person by the company they keep.”

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“You may know a person by the company they keep.”

The quote’s profoundness is right up there with an Arabian proverb that goes, “Judge a person by the reputation of their enemies.”

In either case, the phrases prove that much can be said with just a few choice words.

This past weekend, I had the honor of providing the “key-note” address at a conference that took place at Central Connecticut State University entitled “Defending Public Education.”

The conference explored the corporate education reform movement.  As readers of Wait, What? know – there was a lot to discuss!

I’ve been meaning to post a blog about the conference, but a reader sent me a review of the conference published on the pro-corporate education reform blog, CTEducation180.

In this case, I think that reposting their assessment probably gives Wait, What? readers a better and more accurate review of the conference than I could ever write;

Following their post, I’ve copied some background about the CTEducation180 blog which appears to be a blog that is used by ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy group.

Anti-reformer gathering puts Pelto in spotlight

This weekend, a teachers union funded and convened an anti-education reform conference, featuring who else but Jonathan Pelto on the list of speakers.

The event was hosted by the Central Connecticut State University Youth for Socialist Action, which describes itself on its Facebook page as “a group of revolutionary minded students and young workers.”

Really. You can’t make this stuff up.

Conference organizers make exactly zero attempts to be evenhanded, academic or honest. The flyer for the event goes off on a paranoia-laced rant about legislators “influenced by the profit motive” and “demonized” public workers.

Who is ponying up the dough for this nonsense? The Hartford Federation of Teachers, among others.

Called “Defending Public Education,” the conference appears to be little more than an anti-education reform rally. It features such panels as “Teachers Are Not the Enemy” and “Organizing Action in Your Community.”

And Jon Pelto headlined.

You might remember Pelto from his continuing series of blog posts attacking the state’s education commissioner, the governor, the schools chiefs from Windham, Hartford and Bridgeport, and many, many other folks who have made improving Connecticut’s schools their life’s work.

It would be nice if people could engage in a real discussion about how to better help Connecticut’s failing schools, and how to better support Connecticut’s students. But with gatherings like these which only engender fear, skew the facts, and prop up hacks like Jon Pelto — funded by our teacher unions — that remains a dream, rather than a reality.

So who is CTEducation180?

CTEducation180 is a blog that was created by public relations consultant Pat Scully, whose own blog is called the “hanging shad.”  It now appears that CTEducation180 has become a communication vehicle for ConnCAN, the charter school advocacy organization created by members of Achievement First, Inc’s Board of Directors.  Achievement First, Inc. being the charter school management company co-founded by Connecticut Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

The “about” section of the blog reads, “The education reform bill passed last year by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Dannel P. Malloy raises standards for educators, allows immediate action to improve failing schools, increases access to high-quality public school choices, and improves how education dollars are spent.

Unfortunately, bold steps forward on education reform have spawned a vocal chorus of opponents that are willing to say and do anything in order to maintain the status quo and prevent children from attending the high-quality public schools they deserve.”

CT Taxpayers invest in “Hot App” company, will the Wait, What? Blog be next?

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An 18-month old company, incorporated in Delaware, with an office in Westport, but its chief financial officer and chief operations officers in California, landed $750,000 in Connecticut taxpayer funding this week, thanks to Connecticut Innovations, a quasi-state agency that works to support the Connecticut economy by investing public funds in private companies.

deets, inc., who has had no sales to date, is developing a “productivity App” that, “facilities message sharing for a specific group of workers, parents of Little League players or other small groups, getting them information cleanly and quickly. It also provides smooth contact synchronization.”

A version of the App is now available at the Apple App Store.  According to an article written by the Hartford Courant’s Mara Lee, “The writers of the free app, which has nearly 10,000 users since its launch in August, are hoping to capitalize on the “’anti-social sentiment that’s out there.’”

The company plans to use the new funding to hire 5 employees in Connecticut.

In addition to the Apple version of the app, deets reports that an Android version will be out in January and the plan, according to the Courant, will be to “launch paid versions for businesses. The businesses could use deets to send messages to customers or to help teams communicate internally.”

The news that scarce public funds are being given to a company with limited connections to Connecticut, but who are engaged in an effort to break into a growth field, led Jonathan Pelto, whose blog, Wait, What? seeks to bring transparency and accountability to the Malloy Administration and Connecticut State Government, in general, to consider submitting an application for funding.

“We are definitely considering submitting an application to one of these agencies,” Pelto said, “Attempting to bring transparency to the Malloy Administration is definitely a growth market and we’ve literally had hundreds of thousands of visits to Wait What?,” Pelto noted.

“While our sales have been limited to date, with $750,000 we’d hire, not five, but at least ten Connecticut residents to be researchers and writers, and with that, we’re convinced we could turn the blog into a money-making venture over the next two years,” added Pelto.

However, when asked whether he or his Blog, Wait, What? might be blacklisted from getting state aid, Pelto failed to return multiple phone calls, and referred any further questions to his lawyers.

For the Courant Story see:  http://www.courant.com/business/hc-ci-deets-inc-relocation-20121113,0,281750.story

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