Today’s “MUST READ” Columns on the Malloy/Pryor Charter School scandals

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Another Week, Another Scandal (By Sarah Darer Littman)

Another week, and another education scandal here in the Nutmeg State. The FBI served subpoenas on charter school operator FUSE last Friday morning, and shortly after their visit Hartford Courant reporters found the receptionist shredding documents. “Asked what was being shredded, she said the documents were associated with the state-subsidized Jumoke charter schools.” Obstruction of justice, anyone?

Meanwhile, after the notoriously opaque state Department of Education declined to issue reporters a copy of their own FBI-issued subpoena, the Courant received this statement Monday from Department of Education spokeswoman Kelly Donnelly: “We have been assured that the department is not a subject of this investigation.” Okay then. That’s clear.

Yet by Tuesday, it was another story. Apparently, the subpoena seeks, among other things, “All emails of Commissioner Stefan Pryor” since January 2012.

Read the complete piece at: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/op-ed_another_week_another_scandal/

 

A charlatan in charge of children (By Wendy Lecker)

It is becoming painfully clear that in Connecticut, the refrain that education reform is “all about the children,” is a sad joke. To Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor and his allies, children are merely collateral damage.

Recently, there was the scandal involving Hartford’s Milner school, in which the children were used as pawns in a scheme to expand the charter empire of now-disgraced Jumoke/FUSE CEO Michael Sharpe. Pryor never bothered to discover that Sharpe is a former felon and falsified his academic credentials. Instead, while Milner was floundering under Sharpe, Pryor, a longtime Sharpe supporter, handed him two additional schools. The fate of public school children was clearly the last thing on Pryor’s mind. Currently, the FBI is investigating Pryor’s, Sharpe’s and Jumoke/FUSE’s connections.

And now — New London. In 2012, Pryor decided to take over New London’s school district. His pretext was that the school board was dysfunctional and “rife with personal agendas.” Pryor never provided any causal relationship between the board’s behavior and student performance.

On the contrary, Pryor acknowledged that “many of the problems of New London and the New London School District are the direct result of economic decline and poverty.”

Instead of providing New London with adequate resources, the Malloy administration, through Pryor, appointed Steven Adamowski as New London’s powerful special master.

Adamowski was simultaneously the special master of another impoverished district, Windham. Adamowski’s reign in Windham was characterized by pushing unproven reforms while gutting services that actually helped children. He cut funding for Windham’s successful pre-K program and reduced the capacity of Windham’s bilingual program-even though over a quarter of the students are English Language Learners. He pushed the use of Teach for America, replacing experienced local teachers with temporary recent college graduates; and promoted “choice” for a select number of parents who could afford transportation to an out-of-district school.

 Read the full article at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-charlatan-in-charge-of-children-5647661.php

 

Search Firm Faulted For Overlooking ‘Ph.D.’ Claims In Carter’s Past; Says It Will Make Good (By Jon Lender)

You’re in front of a Google search screen. You type in “Terrence Carter” — in quotation marks — and then add Chicago, his hometown. Hit “Enter.”

On the first page of results there’s a link for some speakers’ biographies for a 2011 education conference. One of the “Presenter Biographies” is about “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and it says he holds doctorate from Stanford University — which he doesn’t.

That’s the process that The Courant went through two weeks ago, finding a public document listing Carter as the holder of a doctorate — several years before his scheduled receipt next month of a Ph.D. from an accredited institute, Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

Expanding the search terms slightly — to combinations such as “Terrence Carter, Ph.D.” and Dr. Terrence P. Carter” — yielded a dozen such references.

A member of the search team Nebraska-based McPherson & Jacobson — a Nebraska-based human resources consultant — said she didn’t come up with any Ph.D. or Dr. listing. Carter was never asked about those references during the application process that led to his selection last month by New London’s Board of Education for the job of school superintendent effective Aug. 1.

As a result, the questions that could have been asked in the relatively relaxed setting of a job interview now will be asked in an overheated pressure-cooker situation. The school board Thursday night postponed a vote to approve a contract with the superintendent’s job and ordered its law firm to investigate Carter’s background. The probe is expected to take a month.

The action came after a series of Courant stories starting July 18 raised questions about Carter’s use of the titles Ph.D. and Dr. dating back at least to 2008.

Some officials and citizens in New London said they are wondering why the search consultant that pledged in March to perform “extensive background checks” on the candidates didn’t turn any of this stuff up.

“Why did it take someone from the Hartford Courant to vet the whole situation?” New London resident Eric Parnes asked the school board at its meeting Thursday night.

Read the complete article at: http://www.courant.com/news/politics/hc-lender-carter-resume-0727-20140726,0,1585462.column

 

And one more – file this one under – What the heck was “Dr.” Terrence Carter and the corporate education reform industry geniuses thinking?

PDF: Comparison Of Terrence P. Carter’s 2011 And 2014 Biographies

Paid for by Pelto 2014, Ted Strelez, Treasurer, Christine Ladd, Deputy Treasurer, Approved by Jonathan Pelto

Supporters of Corporate Education Reform now targeting higher education

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While it is obvious that the widespread access to higher educational opportunities is more important than ever, elected officials have been consistently reducing support for our public colleges and universities.

The shocking and disturbing trend has been especially visible here in Connecticut where Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has pushed through the deepest cuts in Connecticut history for our public institutions of higher education.  Students and their families are forced to pay more and get less as the state pulls the rug out from under this vital service.

But Malloy is not alone.

On behalf of the corporate education reform industry, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, is embarking on an expensive, misleading and completely unnecessary rating system that will cost colleges and taxpayers tens of millions of dollars while providing no benefit whatsoever.

On the other hand, the proposal will mean a whole lot of education reform consultants will continue to feed at the public trough.

This past weekend, fellow education advocate Wendy Lecker wrote about this proposal in her Stamford Advocate column entitled, “The consequences of silence.”

Wendy Lecker writes,

When President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan continued and expanded NCLB’s absurd ranking and punishing of public schools based on socio-economic and other inappropriate measures, teachers, parents and public school advocates spoke out. They opposed and continue to oppose shallow ratings that fail to capture the complexities of educating children and that distort the goals of public schools.

As this battle raged, one group that was silent were college officials. That silence had consequences and now these officials are feeling the bite of destructive education policies.

College presidents are up in arms over the Obama administration’s plan to rate colleges and universities, to determine eligibility for federal funds, based on factors such as how many students graduate, how much debt students carry and how much money graduates earn.

One community college leader, alluding to the well-known shortcomings of federal data, feared these ratings would be “garbage in- garbage out.”

Others worry about the one-size-fits-all measure, when colleges have different missions. Moreover, certain criteria reveal more about the ideology of those rating the schools than the quality of the schools themselves. For example, those ranking a school based on its graduates’ earnings value high salaries over professions such as teaching, social work, or other important, but not lucrative, jobs.

Williams College president Adam Falk decried the rating plan as “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.”

In a 2011 New Yorker article about U.S. News and World Report’s college ranking system, Malcom Gladwell explored the difficulty of measuring “how well a college manages to inform, inspire, and challenge its students.” He remarked that the proxies used for educational quality “turn out to be flimsy at best.”

As former Obama administration official, Janet Napolitano, now president of the University of California, said last year, “It’s not like — you know, you’re not buying a car or a boat.”

Napolitano overestimated the Obama administration’s regard for a college education. A U.S. Department of Education official recently claimed rating a college is “like rating a blender.”

Inaccurate data, a one-size-fits-all measure, a reductionist view of education — where have I heard all this before? Ah yes, federal and state officials, with the help of billionaires such as Bill Gates and the Walton family, have been inflicting these “reforms” on public schools for more than a decade. And for all that time, those who support a well-rounded K-12 education have been sounding the same alarms now raised by university presidents.

My question is — where have you been, university presidents? As we fight the narrowed curriculum resulting from NCLB and its corollary, the Common Core, which limits a child’s world to an endless series of scripted prompts and canned lessons, why haven’t you spoken out? When the democratic values of our society are being trampled by “reforms” that punish schools serving our neediest children, increase segregation and eliminate democratically elected school boards, where is your outrage? While political leaders define “college ready” as a number on a standardized test, why are you not explaining that college demands so much more than that?

You were likely lucky enough to attend schools that provided a rich and diverse curriculum. So certainly you have read the words of German pastor Martin Neimoller:

“First 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 for me.”

The concerted attacks on public education reach beyond local public schools. Our founders maintained that education was the “very essence and foundation of a civilized culture”; crucial to the preservation of our government and our society and “to the encouragement of virtue.” These broad goals have been replaced by the empty notion that our children are the simply means to American economic competitiveness and the false claims that if our schools focus on what can be tested and measured, our economy will succeed. In many respects our children have become the commodity — the raw material from which testing and charter companies profit.

It is high time for university presidents, good government groups and others to join public school advocates in demanding that the democratic purpose of our public schools be restored, lest no one remain when the profit-seekers come for them.

You can read the full commentary piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-The-consequences-of-silence-5517995.php

Wendy Lecker and Diane Ravitch on the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

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Diane Ravitch, the nation’s leading voice for public education explains,

As segregation grows worse than it has been for decades, the problems are worsened by current “reforms.” School privatization intensifies segregation, high-stakes testing creates cause for closing struggling schools instead of helping students.

As Wendy Lecker writes, there is a growing grassroots to prevent the corporate takeover of public education and to turn schools into profit centers. The victory of Ras Baraka in Newark is the latest example of a community fighting for dignity.

In many cities and states, this is a bad time for public education. Plutocrats want to take control of the schools and decide which children to educate.

Over time, history teaches us that bad things don’t last forever. This is a democracy, and when people organize and unite, the plutocrats lose.

The following is Wendy Lecker’s latest commentary piece.  It first appeared in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate.  You can read the complete column at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-The-grass-roots-movement-for-educational-5484585.php

The grass-roots movement for educational equality (by Wendy Lecker)

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education that separate is never equal when it comes to the education of our children.

Judging from the lack of progress in school equity in the past 60 years, it is easy to despair that the promise of Brown will never be fulfilled. Schools are more segregated today than they have been in more than 40 years. Schools serving predominately African-American and Latino students receive far less funding than schools serving predominately white students. African-American and Latino students are much more likely to have inexperienced teachers than their white counterparts.

Compounding these inequities, current school “reforms” disproportionately harm children and communities of color. In Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Newark and elsewhere, officials, often backed by outside billionaires, have waged identical campaigns of destruction: disinvesting in community schools while funding and promoting privately run charter schools, declaring underfunded community schools “failures,” closing them and replacing them with more charters.

The results are devastating. Children are uprooted, interrupting their education and harming their achievement. They often must travel far, through dangerous neighborhoods, to unfamiliar schools. Many replacement charters have exclusive enrollment policies that shut out neighborhood children, and harsh discipline policies that push out even more. Experienced teachers from the community are replaced by outside Teach for America recruits with five weeks of training. Schools that have been community anchors for generations disappear, signaling the demise of the neighborhood.

Parents are not given a choice or a voice. When they protest these policies and instead demand the resources and support their schools and communities need, they are ignored. As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie insisted when faced with grass-roots opposition to his slash-and-burn policies in Newark: “I don’t care about the community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them.”

These policies have proven to be failures. Test-based accountability has done nothing to help learning. Charters are no better than public schools, show no innovation and increase segregation. “Turnaround” strategies hurt school performance by destabilizing the school community. Yet despite the evidence, our political leaders push the failed schemes, simply because they are backed by the wealthy and powerful.

Worse still, those who impose this devastation on communities of color against their will cynically don the cloak of Brown. They adopt civil rights rhetoric, claiming they are “saving” children of color, while disempowering their parents and imposing a type of “education” on them to which they would never subject their own children.

So it is easy to fall into despair. Yet, from those very communities reformers seem intent on silencing and destroying, rays of hope are emerging.

Parents in Newark, New Orleans and Chicago have organized joint protests and marches to call attention to the destruction of their community institutions: their public schools. This week, grass-roots parent groups filed civil rights complaints demonstrating that school closures in their cities have disproportionately harmed African-American and Latino students and their families. Beyond these complaints, this 21 city coalition, the Journey for Justice, has presented a positive plan for sustainable schools and neighborhoods; a plan built on real evidence of what works both in schools and in communities.

While school privatizer and former Newark Mayor Cory Booker once said “real change has casualties,” these parents are declaring “our children are not collateral damage.”

And they are taking their fight to the ballot box. This week, voters in Newark beat back the Wall Street-financed charter school board member candidate and elected public school principal Ras Baraka as mayor. The biggest issue in the election was the so-called education reform — disinvestment, school closures, exclusive charters — that has wreaked havoc on families in that city. One supporter noted that people across the country are watching this race, as it is “the beginning of a surge of resistance” against school privatizers.

Here in Connecticut, that surge began in November 2012, when big money tried to eliminate a democratically elected school board in Bridgeport. Despite the millions poured into that effort from outside agitators, Bridgeport voters flatly rejected the attempt to disenfranchise them. Parents are also rising up to protest the profound racial isolation wrought by Connecticut’s charters.

Voters in the cities most affected by education reform are joining together to speak truth to power. Watching this genuine grassroots movement grow gives hope that one day soon, this country will reclaim its commitment to Brown’s vision not only of educational equality, but also of a just and equitable society.

Re-posting Malloy’s Teacher evaluation system is fundamentally and fatally flawed

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Public education advocate Wendy Lecker’s latest column is reaching a national audience thanks to Diane Ravitch’s blog.

Here is a re-post of Saturday’s Wait, What? post about Lecker’s commentary piece.

In her latest MUST READ commentary piece, fellow public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, lays out the facts about Governor Malloy’s unfair, inappropriate and fatally flawed teacher evaluation system.  Like the junk bonds that helped take down Wall Street, Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system is based on junk science and false assumptions.

The question is not whether the state should have a comprehensive teacher evaluation system, but whether the corporate education reform industry will continue to stand in the way of developing one.

While recent attempts by the teacher unions to “correct” the flaws in the Malloy administration’s teacher evaluation system are laudable, the fact is that Malloy’s system cannot be fixed because it is inherently dependent on standardized test scores that fail to evaluate teachers on factors that are within their control.

As Wendy Lecker explains, the present system is not only unfair but is actually a useless waste of  a massive amount of time and money.  It needs to be repealed and replaced by a teacher evaluation program that actually enhances the quality of education in our schools.

Wendy Lecker’s piece from this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and Hearst Media Group papers is entitled, Solution to failed tests is not more tests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A recent comprehensive study by Northwestern Professor Kirabo Jackson found that children with teachers who help them develop non-cognitive skills have much better outcomes than those who have teachers who may help them raise test scores. Jackson found that every standard deviation increase in non-cognitive skills corresponds to a significant decrease in the drop-out risk and increased rates of high school graduation. By contrast, one standard deviation increase in standardized test scores has a very weak, often non-existent, relationship to these outcomes. Test scores also predict less than 2 percent of the variability in absences and suspensions, and under 10 percent of the variability in on-time grade progression, for example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the full commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Solution-to-failed-tests-is-not-more-tests-5449394.php

Malloy’s Teacher evaluation system is fundamentally and fatally flawed

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In her latest MUST READ commentary piece, fellow public education advocate, Wendy Lecker, lays out the facts about Governor Malloy’s unfair, inappropriate and fatally flawed teacher evaluation system.  Like the junk bonds that helped take down Wall Street, Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system is based on junk science and false assumptions.

The question is not whether the state should have a comprehensive teacher evaluation system, but whether the corporate education reform industry will continue to stand in the way of developing one.

While recent attempts by the teacher unions to “correct” the flaws in the Malloy administration’s teacher evaluation system are laudable, the fact is that Malloy’s system cannot be fixed because it is inherently dependent on standardized test scores that fail to evaluate teachers on factors that are within their control.

As Wendy Lecker explains, the present system is not only unfair but is actually a useless waste of  a massive amount of time and money.  It needs to be repealed and replaced by a teacher evaluation program that actually enhances the quality of education in our schools.

Wendy Lecker’s piece from this weekend’s Stamford Advocate and Hearst Media Group papers is entitled, Solution to failed tests is not more tests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A recent comprehensive study by Northwestern Professor Kirabo Jackson found that children with teachers who help them develop non-cognitive skills have much better outcomes than those who have teachers who may help them raise test scores. Jackson found that every standard deviation increase in non-cognitive skills corresponds to a significant decrease in the drop-out risk and increased rates of high school graduation. By contrast, one standard deviation increase in standardized test scores has a very weak, often non-existent, relationship to these outcomes. Test scores also predict less than 2 percent of the variability in absences and suspensions, and under 10 percent of the variability in on-time grade progression, for example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the full commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Solution-to-failed-tests-is-not-more-tests-5449394.php

Connecticut “schools of choice” are a vehicle for discrimination

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Fellow commentator and public school Advocate Wendy Lecker’s latest column in the Stamford Advocate examines CT Voices for Children’s new research report which is entitled, ”Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs.”  The study found that charter schools and other “choice schools” systematically prevent equal access to some of the state’s neediest students.

As Wendy Lecker reports,

Of special concern, the report found that Connecticut charter schools are “hypersegregated” — at least 90 percent minority. Furthermore, the authors revealed that charters grossly underserve English Language Learners (`ELL”) and students with disabilities.

Connecticut Voices noted that charters have a financial incentive to exclude ELL students. Unlike the cost of special education services, which is borne by the district where a charter school student lives, charter schools must pay for ELL programs and services. If, however, a charter has fewer than 20 ELL students, it is not required to provide an ELL program.

Connecticut’s rating system, which judges and sanctions schools based on standardized tests scores, provides more reasons to exclude. ELL students and students with disabilities tend to score lower on standardized tests, therefore charter schools look higher performing when they do not have either subgroup.

A traditional public school would never be able to get away with excluding any child in their district. Such a move would be illegal. However, the state enables the charter schools’ exclusionary behavior. Charters are not required to have specific diversity targets in enrollment. Moreover, while in theory a charter can be revoked if a charter school does not serve enough ELL or students with disabilities, no charter school has ever suffered that fate. With an Education Commissioner who is a founder of one of the worst offending charter chains, charters are safe to continue their exclusionary practices.

The fact that these publically funded “choice schools” have become a vehicle to further segregate our society undermines the very essence of our public education system.

As Wendy Lecker explains,

The idea of equity for all was the driving force behind the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr. declared that “I am never what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.

“Lyndon Johnson’s motto was “doing the greatest good for the greatest number.”

The principles of communal good underpinned Connecticut’s commitment to school integration. Connecticut’s Supreme Court deemed that having children of different backgrounds learn together is vital “to gain the understanding and mutual respect necessary for the cohesion of our society.” The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall maintained: “Unless our children learn together, there is little hope that our people will learn to live together.”

Armed with the evidence provided by the new CT Voices for Children Report, Wendy Lecker concludes,

As voters, we have a choice. We can recommit ourselves to school integration, realizing that instilling in our children a sense of community is the key to our cohesion as a democratic state. Or, we can allow politicians to school our children in avoidance, and risk becoming like the fractious and unstable nations we see in the world around us.

Be sure to read Wendy Lecker entire column which can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Some-needy-students-frozen-out-of-5413855.php

You can read and download the CT Voices for Children report at: http://www.ctvoices.org/publications/choice-watch-diversity-and-access-connecticuts-school-choice-programs.

Teacher Barth Keck adds his voice to the debate about the Common Core and related testing

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As Connecticut’s public school students begin taking the Common Core Balanced Assessment Field Test of a test this week, more and more serious questions are being raised about the Common Core and its associated testing charade.

As evidenced during the recent public hearing held by the General Assembly’s Education Committee, apologists for the Common Core and Governor Malloy’s corporate education reform industry initiatives desperately defend the indefensible policies related to the Common Core, the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment Test and the absurd teacher evaluation system.

At the recent hearing, the most irrational support for Malloy’s education reforms came from Malloy’s own Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and organizations such as the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

CABE and CAPSS are two examples of groups that are funded in large part by taxpayer funds but rather than spend their resources protecting Connecticut’s public school students, parents, teachers, school administrators and taxpayers they are kowtowing to an increasingly unpopular governor and his increasingly unpopular so-called “education reforms.”

This weekend’s trifecta of columns about the failures of Malloy’s education reforms include Wendy Lecker’s “Charter school pitch not about helping community,” Sarah Darer Littman’s “Politicians Underestimate Common Core Opposition at Their Peril” and Connecticut teacher Barth Keck’s column entitled, Criticism of Common Core Is A Misunderstanding That Will ‘Dissipate’ After Adoption?.”  

The commentary piece Barth Keck wrote in this week’s CT NewsJunkie lays out some of the most profound issues.

Keck writes,

“To listen to the leaders of the leaders of Connecticut public schools, the controversy surrounding the Common Core State Standards is merely a misunderstanding that will be clarified once the standards are adopted.

Bob Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said “there’s a lot of misinformation about the teacher evaluation system and how it’s going to work together with the Common Core,” according to a CTNewsJunkie report.

“What we’re trying to do is give a little cooling off period so we can implement Common Core,” Rader said during the legislature’s hearing on March 12. “Then I think you’ll see this all dissipate.”

Regarding a survey that found 97 percent of Connecticut teachers “believed there should be some sort of moratorium on the implementation of the standards,” Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said that he didn’t know where “the approximately 1,500 teachers surveyed by the Connecticut Education Association came from because that’s not what he’s hearing from the leaders of school districts.”

Note to Mr. Cirasuolo: I know where at least one of them came from.

What we have here is a classic case of “decoupling.” That is, proponents of the Common Core have separated themselves from the pushback simply because it’s an impediment to their agenda.

“Moratorium says to me: You stop,” said Cirasuolo. “All of that just stops. Our members are saying, ‘We can’t do that. What do we do if we stop? Do we go back and get the stuff we used to use four years ago?’ You’re not going to improve a process if you stop it.”

Cirasuolo’s attitude is mirrored at the national level.

“The standards are portrayed as so consensual, so universally endorsed, so thoroughly researched and vetted, so self-evidently necessary to economic progress, so broadly represented of beliefs in the educational community,” writes respected author and literacy expert Thomas Newkirk in a must-read essay, “that they cease to be even debatable.”

Problem is, adds Newkirk, these bold attitudes “hide their controversial edges.”

Newkirk outlines multiple reasons why — despite the self-assurance of Common Core supporters — the current resistance should not be so readily dismissed.

For one, many standards are “developmentally inappropriate.”

“[T]he CCSS has taken what I see as exceptional work, that of perhaps the top 5 percent of students, and made it the new norm,” writes Newkirk. “What had once been an expectation for fourth graders [has] become the standard for second graders, as in this example:

Write informative/explanatory texts in which they [i.e., second graders] introduce a topic, use facts and definitions to develop points and provide a concluding statement.

“Normally this would be the expectation of an upper-elementary report; now it is the requirement for seven-year-olds.”

Newkirk also has concerns about the connection between standardized testing and the Common Core, a situation that ultimately limits what is taught: “These tests will give operational reality to the standards — in effect they will become the standards; there will be little incentive to teach to skills that are not tested.”

Perhaps most significantly, the full-speed-ahead attitude of the CCSS proponents “drowns out” all other educational discussions.

Explains Newkirk: “The principle of opportunity costs prompts us to ask: ‘What conversations won’t we be having?’ Since the CCSS virtually ignore poetry, will we cease to speak about it? What about character education, service learning? What about fiction writing in the upper high school grades? What about the arts that are not amenable to standardized testing? What about collaborative learning, an obvious twenty-first-century skill? We lose opportunities when we cease to discuss these issues and allow the CCSS to completely set the agenda, when the only map is the one it creates.”

The history of our country is filled with examples of cognitive dissonance created by people who question the so-called “conventional wisdom.” Newkirk cites Martin Luther King, Jr., who stated in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that it is never “untimely” in a democracy to scrutinize policies.

The leaders of the leaders of our public schools would do well to remember this lesson. King’s “Letter,” after all, is included in Common Core Standard 10 as a “Text Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Range of Student Reading 6-12.”

You can read Barth Keck’s full column at CT NewsJunkie by clicking here:  Criticism of Common Core Is A Misunderstanding That Will ‘Dissipate’ After Adoption?

Charter Company: We’re from the Bronx, NY and we are here to help

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When it comes to Governor Malloy, his Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor and the corporate education reform industry, perhaps the most absurd, inappropriate, insulting, and anti-local control privatization scheme is playing itself out in Stamford, Connecticut.

Fellow pro-public education advocate columnist Wendy Lecker lays out the facts about Bronx Charter School for Excellence effort to open a charter school in Stamford and the help they are getting from Commissioner Pryor’s office and Connecticut’s lobbying group dedicated to privatizing Connecticut’s system of public education.

As parents, teachers and pro-public education allies have learned, these ongoing efforts to undermine public education are not coming from some wing-nut Teabag Republican but from Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy and his band of corporate education reform industry supporters.

This week Wendy Lecker lays out the stunning facts in a Stamford Advocate column entitled, Charter school pitch not about helping community.

Wendy Lecker’s MUST READ piece follows,

Since my column appears in several papers, I was asked, when I started, not to write about Stamford. This week, I am writing about an application by Bronx Charter School for Excellence (BSCE) to open a school in Stamford.

But this is not about Stamford.

If this were about Stamford, BCSE would have taken care to describe Stamford in its application. Instead, it describes a city where, compared to its neighbors Darien, New Canaan, Westport and Greenwich, “racial isolation prevails.” You read that right — the application claims that compared to those predominately wealthy, white towns, Stamford is racially and economically isolated.

Not only is Stamford wonderfully diverse, our community has a proud commitment to integrated schools. For more than 40 years, Stamford has maintained its “10 percent rule,” requiring that our schools reflect the demographics of the community, plus or minus 10 percent. When our schools fall out of balance, we redistrict — a public and sometimes painful process. For our magnet schools, we long ago abandoned a “blind lottery” because we found that a lottery without demographic controls segregates. Decades of research and experience in schools across the nation confirm our experience.

BCSE plans to specifically target our children of color and low-income children and insists on admission by blind lottery. It completely discounts the research and Stamford’s experience, which almost guarantees that this school will be segregated.

But this is not about Stamford.

Stamford strives to serve all its more than 16,000 children — with little help from the state, which owes Stamford’s children millions of dollars in state education aid. Stamford’s school budget is almost 90 percent local money.

BCSE seeks about $4 million in state taxpayer dollars to serve at most 392 children, from pre-K through fifth grade. If this had been about Stamford, someone might have asked what Stamford needs.

But this is not about Stamford.

If this were about Stamford, BSCE would realize that its claim it will “eradicate” our achievement gap is empty. BCSE struggles with a large achievement gap in its own small school, and offers no educational practices that Stamford does not already do. The difference is that Stamford serves all children — not just a handful.

It is no wonder BCSE gets it all wrong. No one in BCSE bothered to learn about Stamford before completing the application. The entire process was conducted without consultation with or even notice to anyone in Stamford.

In November 2013, without informing Stamford, charter school chain founder and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor directed former charter school principal and State Department of Education “turnaround” director Morgan Barth to solicit charter applications targeting Stamford and select other cities.

BCSE prepared its application without contacting the superintendent, mayor or parent groups, and without visiting Stamford public schools. SDE scheduled a local hearing about this application with no notice to Stamford, during Stamford’s school vacation.

When the superintendent received the application, in February, she, the mayor and members of the Board of Education protested SDE’s lack of notice. In response, SDE postponed the hearing by three weeks. Only then did BCSE reach out to Stamford officials.

BCSE also held a well-advertised dinner the Saturday before the hearing. About five people showed up, three of whom were not supporters of the charter application. Had this been about Stamford, BCSE would have understood that Stamford parents are not interested in their version of “choice.”

But this is not about Stamford.

So, BCSE bused in parents, teachers and students from the Bronx to tell the state representatives at a local hearing that Stamford parents “need” this school.

Of the more than 50 people who spoke at the hearing, only one resident of Stamford spoke in favor of the application. A charter lobbyist read a supportive statement from another absent resident. The rest, Stamford parents, Board of Education members, community leaders and the mayor spoke in opposition to the application. The diverse Stamford community explained that this school is not what we need nor want.

But this is not about what Stamford needs or wants. This is about a charter school setting itself up to look good — receiving a hefty sum of state dollars for classes of 16 children, starting in pre-K, so it does not have to submit to state testing until 2018, well after it will be a “done deal.”

This is about ignoring community needs, community experience and community values.

When someone comes here pushing a school that does not reflect our commitment to equity and integration, we know — it is not about Stamford.

You can read column and Wendy Lecker’s other pieces via http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Charter-school-pitch-not-about-helping-5338987.php and by searhing www.stamfordadvocate.com

 

The two “MUST READ” columns of the weekend

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Fellow pro-pubic education advocates and commentators have done it again – with two more MUST READ pieces.

Sarah Darer Littman with “The Brave New World of being ‘College and Career Ready

and

Wendy Lecker with “A crisis of low standards

Wendy Lecker writes,

Not poverty. Not inadequate resources. Not toxic stress. Not segregation. According to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, low standards are the cause of America’s educational disparities. The solution, he maintains, is national standards, the Common Core State Standards, and the accompanying national tests.

“For far too long,” Duncan declared, “our school systems lied to kids, to families, and to communities. They said the kids were all right — that they were on track to being successful — when in reality they were not even close.” Duncan claimed states’ low standards made “educators, administrators and especially politicians” look good but did not prepare students for the rigors of college work.

Before the Common Core, according to Duncan, high school success was a “lie” — it certainly did not mean that students were “college ready.”

What a compelling, but false, narrative. A new peer-reviewed longitudinal nationwide study confirmed that the most reliable predictor of cumulative college GPA and college graduation is a student’s high school GPA.

Read the Wendy Lecker’s entire piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-A-crisis-of-low-standards-5298374.php

 

Sarah Darer Littman writes;

One of the oft-stated goals of education reform is to ensure that students are “college and career ready.” Like “excellence,” it’s probably one of the most over-used phrases in the education reform movement.

But as I’ve asked before,  what does this phrase really mean? Do our policy makers even know? Judging by their actions of late, I’m starting to think they don’t.

On March 18, the window opens for field tests of the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the computer-based adaptive test that will go live next year to replace the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT).

SBAC, or the Smarter Balanced Consortium, is one of the two consortiums that states have signed up with to develop new assessment systems for the Common Core State Standards. Funded by a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education (which runs out in September of this year), SBAC claims its system “will measure mastery of the Common Core State Standards and provide timely information about student achievement and progress toward college and career readiness.”

But there’s a slight catch. They haven’t yet defined “college and career ready.”

“The Consortium also will establish performance benchmarks that define the level of content and skill mastery that marks students as college- and career-ready. These performance benchmarks will be determined through a deliberative and evidence-based standard-setting process, which will include input from K-12 educators and college and university faculty,” the website says. “Preliminary performance standards will be established in 2014 after student data have been collected through pilot and field testing. Following the Field Test in spring 2014, the Consortium will conduct standard setting for the summative assessments in grades 3-8 and grade 11 in ELA/literacy and mathematics. These performance standards will be validated in July/August 2015 using spring 2015 operational data.”

So basically the people who are pushing Common Core — Mssrs. Gates, Obama, Duncan et al, need our kids to be lab rats for this project, while their kids are safely ensconced in private schools, immune from such pedestrian concerns.

What does being an unpaid test subject for SBAC entail, exactly?

Sarah Darer Littman’s entire piece can be found at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_brave_new_world_of_being_college_and_career_ready/

As Wait, What? readers know, Wendy and Sarah are playing the pivotal role in the battle against the corporate education reform industry and in the on-going effort to re-take control of our public education system.

Please take the time to read these two key commentary pieces.

Ailing teacher evaluation program can’t be cured (by Wendy Lecker)

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Among Governor Malloy’s package of election year gimmicks to win back enough support to get 50 percent of the vote in November’s gubernatorial election are a series of steps to deceive teachers, parents and public school advocates into thinking that he is mending his ways and stepping off the corporate education reform industry gravy train.

In a move that would make any panderer proud, Governor Malloy said he would even delay Connecticut’s unfair, inaccurate and counter-productive teacher evaluation program. In fact, he said he would delay it all the way until January 2015, a full TWO MONTHS after his dreamed of re-election.

What Malloy and his education reform allies refuse to admit is that Connecticut’s Ailing teacher evaluation program can’t be cured.  Delaying its implementation is a worthless political stunt.

As Wendy Lecker writes in her latest commentary piece for the Stamford Advocates and Hearst Media Group newspapers, “The time has come to repeal Malloy’s education reforms and develop proposals that will actually improve our schools.”

In another MUST READ piece, Wendy Lecker writes:

With an election year upon us, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently announced that we should delay his new teacher evaluation system. This comes after his policies wasted millions of dollars and thousands of teacher, administrator and student hours.

The governor claims a delay will solve the glitches in the system, implying that the problems with this unproven teacher evaluation system are only procedural.

The truth is that Connecticut’s new teacher evaluation model, called SEED, is fatally flawed and no amount of delay will cure it. It must be scrapped and replaced by a valid system that will actually work to improve teaching and learning.

As the Malloy administration has been warned repeatedly, the reliance on standardized test scores for 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation renders the entire system unreliable.

Research has demonstrated conclusively that using standardized test to rate teachers is invalid because scores vary widely based on the test, year, class and statistical model used. This overwhelming evidence prompted Tennessee’s State Board of Education, one of the first adopters of the so-called Value Added Model (“VAM”), to now abandon the use of VAM in any decisions to license or fire teachers. A bill is pending in Tennessee to prohibit the use of student standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.

Connecticut uses an even more inaccurate method called Student Growth Percentiles (“SGP”). While VAM tries but fails to isolate a teacher’s small effect on student test scores, SGP does not even attempt to measure a teacher’s effect.

SGP tells us nothing about a teacher. Yet that is what Connecticut uses for 22.5 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. Though SGP is a portion of a teacher’s evaluation, it will likely be the determining factor because its volatility will make it the tipping point in a rating.

Delay will not cure the use of SGP. Time cannot magically make unreliable data more reliable — it just gives us more consistently unreliable data.

Delay will also not cure the other fatal flaws in the evaluation system.

The goal of Connecticut’s evaluation system should be to improve teaching and learning. Because they teach human beings, teachers work in a dynamic environment and must be able to adjust their lessons and behavior to each class. A successful teacher evaluation model captures authentic teaching and learning.

Kim Marshall’s admired mini-observation model employs this approach. Since not every aspect of teaching occurs in every class, several mini-observations are required, with conversations after each one. In order not to disrupt teaching, supervision should occur throughout the year, and evaluation at the end.

However, Connecticut’s teacher evaluation program emphasizes so-called measurement, not teaching practice. It is so focused on measurement that it detracts from teaching and learning.

Connecticut’s system is not geared toward improving teaching or learning because it did not emanate from the classroom or classroom practice. Teachers are asked to respond to externally generated jargon-filled questions that have little relationship to their classroom or students. Where they used to use staff meetings to review student work and share ideas for improving lessons, they now spend hours in meetings discussing how to answer these artificial questions and enter them into the computer.

In classroom observations, administrators write down every word a teacher says. One teacher reports having the evaluator interrupt her interactions with students so she could repeat verbatim what she had just said. An experienced counselor described an observed family meeting in which the administrator’s transcribing was so distracting that she focused on every word she said rather than the toxic dynamic developing between the parent and child. A 40-year veteran first-grade teacher recounted how she no longer reads books aloud to her students because she fears an evaluator will say she is off-script.

Waiting a year will not help. As one teacher said “We can all figure out how to fill out the forms more quickly and accurately and nothing will have improved for the student.”

He continued. “A teacher’s most valuable resource is time. I used to spend this time trying to think of ways to make my lessons more engaging, or how to scaffold better.” Now, the teacher reports spending that time answering questions that seem to exist merely to justify an outside consultant’s fee.

The majority of Connecticut teachers agree. UConn’s study of the evaluation pilot found that only 42 percent of teachers believe that with sufficient resources — time and staffing- SEED will improve teacher practice.

The time has come to repeal Malloy’s education reforms and develop proposals that will actually improve our schools.

You can read Wendy Lecker’s latest article and search for her previous commentary pieces at http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Lecker-Ailing-teacher-evaluation-program-can-t-5215123.php

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