New studies prove failings of education reform industry…

Fellow public school advocate and education columnist, Wendy Lecker, had a piece in this weekend’s Stamford Advocate that should be on the “must read” list for this week.

In “Education fails on an assembly lineWendy Lecker writes,

As any parent knows, every child is different, with different strengths and challenges. The goal of education is to develop each child’s strengths and help her overcome her challenges. Because every child is unique, a one-size-fits-all education will never work. To paraphrase Einstein, standardization is good for cars, but not for people.

Sadly, our leaders are taking public education down a different, damaging and more costly path. Current education policy removes the focus from the needs of children toward methods that have nothing to do with improving learning or well-being. The prime example of this misdirection is the obsession with high-stakes standardized testing.

Americans spend billions of tax dollars and thousands of hours on test prep, administration, scoring and reporting. With the advent of the Common Core, we will spend billions more to develop, administer and score new tests. The Common Core tests, taken and scored entirely on computers, will also require massive investments to upgrade technology.

Policy makers demand that the fate of students, teachers and schools rest on standardized test scores. How do standardized tests help improve learning or life outcomes?

The National Research Council determined that 10 years of No Child Left Behind test-based accountability has had zero to little effect on student achievement. In fact, experts have found that student learning grew at a faster rate prior to NCLB. Evidence also shows that the skills necessary to succeed in life are not captured in standardized tests. Faced with these facts, the logical path would be to reduce the over-emphasis on standardized testing.

Instead, our government, egged on by the education reform industry, claims that the new Common Core tests will assess those “higher order” skills that universities and employers demand. This false assertion flies in the face of the research proving that computer-scoring can only measure rudimentary text-production skills; essentially basic grammar. Computer-scoring cannot assess any higher order skills such as critical thinking, audience awareness, argumentation or creativity.

Thus, we already know that Common Core high-stakes testing will be an expensive failure, as was NCLB.

The cost of high-stakes testing extends beyond the tests themselves. We must count the weeks of lost learning time diverted to tests and test prep each year. Anecdotal evidence from physicians, psychologists and school nurses also reveals a spike in headaches, phobias, and other anxiety-related ailments, along with an increase in the use of anxiety medication during state testing periods.

Now two studies support the claim that standardized tests do more damage than good.

You can find the rest of the commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Education-fails-on-an-assembly-line-4662372.php

 

The hidden costs of charter schools (by Wendy Lecker)

Listening to the charter school advocates, you’d think the data clearly indicate that children attending charter schools do better than children attending public schools.

As Wait, What? readers know the truth is far from that.

Most importantly, here in Connecticut and around the nation, charter schools refuse to provide equal educational opportunities.  Charter schools, such as those associated with Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education and the FUSE/Jumoke Academy charter school management company, consistently fail to provide educational programing to their fair share of non-English speaking students and those who students who need special education services.

Even in the African –American community, charter schools take students that are less poor, speak only English, have little to no special education needs and meet the strict dogmatic discipline measures that many reasonable people would consider abuse.

Last Friday, as the Vallas court case was being announced, Wendy Lecker, the Connecticut public education advocate and columnist published a new, “must read” commentary piece at Stamford Advocates, Connecticut Post and other Hearst media outlets.

Wendy Lecker’s piece has been getting national attention for its direct and honest assessment of what is really going on with charter schools in the country.

Lecker’s complete piece can be found via the following link and is re-posted, in part, below.

http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-hidden-costs-of-charter-schools-4635437.php

Wendy Lecker wrote, “The verdict is in, and it is the same as four years ago. In updating its 2009 national study on charter schools, Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) reaches the same conclusion it did in its previous study: The vast majority of charter schools in the United States are no better than public schools.

In 2009, 83 percent of charters were the same or worse than public schools, and now about 71-75 percent are. Even more telling, CREDO concludes that “the charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is largely driven by the closure of bad schools.” In addition, students at new charter schools have lower reading and math gains than at public schools.

In the study, learning refers only to test scores in elementary and middle schools. Researchers often measure learning improvement in terms of grade levels or years. Because the gains in charters are so small, the authors here attempt to translate test scores into months of learning. Converting test scores into uniform monthly intervals of learning relies on faulty assumptions and is viewed as unreliable.

Nonetheless, the study finds that the average charter school student gains eight days of reading learning over a public school student and nothing in math. Experts agree that math learning depends more on instruction in school, whereas reading advancement often hinges on skills and vocabulary gained outside the classroom.

Even for groups where the claimed learning is the greatest, the most those students gain is about one month of additional learning. Many charters boast longer school days, Saturday school and an extended school year. Therefore, it appears that public schools are more efficient at squeezing learning into a shortened time period.

What do these eight additional days on average of reading learning cost? It is difficult to compare charter school and public school spending. Charter school spending and revenue vary widely and are not transparent. Charters’ grade levels, programs and demographics are often different than public schools’. One study that controlled for these factors found that the charters touted as successful — KIPP, Achievement First and Uncommon Schools — spend between 20-30 percent more than comparable public schools in their host districts.

The human cost of this charter sector improvement is also not addressed in the study. Officials who authorize charters gamble with students’ fates. When the experiment fails, i.e. the charter school is bad, it closes. The study did not count the educational loss these displaced charter students suffer.”

For the rest of the piece go to:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-hidden-costs-of-charter-schools-4635437.php

Do we want to deal with the Achievement Gap: Then deal with the real problem (by Wendy Lecker)

Public school advocate and fellow columnist Wendy Lecker published another “must read” piece over the weekend.  This one entitled “Courts repeatedly uphold the right to a quality education,” explains the underlying problem facing public education in our nation and the sad reality that children, parent and our society have had to rely on the courts rather than elected governors and legislators to truly put children first.

Wendy Lecker’s column successfully lays out the historical context and the real issues surrounding our nation’s failure to close the academic achievement gap, and by doing so, she lays bare the lies and deceit being perpetrated by the education reform industry.

The must read piece concludes that, “Ironically, the most progress in closing achievement gaps was made in the late 1970s to 1980s, while the nation still funded programs to fight poverty and segregation.”

Wendy Lecker goes on to note that, “Since the 1980s, income inequality, segregation and school poverty have increased dramatically. Today, one in five American schools is designated as high poverty, meaning more than 75 percent of students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch; this is a 60 percent increase from 2000. High- poverty schools in America are notoriously underfunded.”

And the piece summarizes the entire situation in the last paragraph by observing, “Sixty years since Brown, 40 years since Rodriguez. The roots of the problems facing American public schools are well-known, and will not be solved through standardized testing or privatization. They will be solved when we have the national will and leadership to act on the lessons learned from those two cases and the many other that have followed.”

If our elected officials took the time to read this piece and then dig deep and find the courage to act, we’d be well on the way of confronting one of the greatest threats to our nation’s future.

Wendy Lecker’s full piece can be found at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Courts-repeatedly-uphold-the-right-4601396.php

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

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 Continue reading “Comparing Wait, What? to CTEducation180…Now that is just going too far…”

Corporate Education Reform Industry spends nearly $4.7 million on Connecticut lobbying, little of it telling the truth.

Pro-public education commentator Wendy Lecker has written another “must read” piece, this time pointing out the fact that corporate education reformers are either unwilling or unable to tell the truth as the spin their political stories to try and convince elected officials and the public to support their “education reform” agenda.

Lecker, like many of us, has heard the latest round of ads that side-step the truth in a politically self-righteous attempt to convince us that we can improve out public education system by handing it over to private corporations and charter schools.

This new $1.5 million advertising campaign by a front organization called, ironically enough, A Better Connecticut, is just one more step in the most expensive lobbying effort in Connecticut history.

Here are the latest numbers;

To date, since Governor Malloy took office, the corporate education reform industry has spent at least $4,650,721.54 on lobbying, breaking all Connecticut records for the most expensive effort in history to buy up Connecticut Public Policy.

The following chart reveals the players in this scheme.

Following the chart is a link to Wendy Lecker’s latest piece in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst media outlets.

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $1,121,672.17
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD) $758,969.00
   
A Better Connecticut $1,490,000.00
   
Students First/GNEPSA (Michelle Rhee) $876,602.08
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $237,504.22
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $126,559.85
   
Students for Education Reform (Michelle Rhee) $15,714.22
   
Connecticut Charter School Association/N.E. Charter School Network $22,000.00
   
Excel Bridgeport $515.00
   
Teach For America $1,185.00
   
EDUCATON REFORM LOBBYING EXPENDITURES $4,650,721.54

 

Wendy Lecker: Imagining where all that money could have gone

“Proponents of corporate-driven education reforms seem to believe that the notion of telling the truth is a low priority. Take for example the false claims being made by charter school advocates about the size of waiting lists for charter schools.

In as diverse locations as Massachusetts and Chicago, charter lobbyists having been pushing charter school expansion by claiming lengthy waiting lists. In both locations, investigations by journalists at the Boston Globe and WBEZ revealed that the waiting list numbers were grossly exaggerated, often counting the same students multiple times. As a Massachusetts legislator noted, raising the charter cap based on artificial numbers “doesn’t make sense.” Unless, of course, your main goal is charter expansion rather than sound educational policy

Another common theme promoted by charter schools is the questionable claim of amazing success. Recently, Geoffrey Canada of the famed Harlem Children’s Zone gave an online seminar in which he boasted a 100 percent graduation rate at his schools. However, if one looks at HCZ’s attrition rate, the true graduation rate is 64 percent. Many have also noted that Canada kicked out two entire grades of children because of sub-par test scores.

Here in Connecticut, ConnCAN, the charter school lobby, is the prominent peddler of shaky claims and half-truths about charter schools.

Recently, in an effort to promote the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport, Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN, Inc. declared that nearly 80 percent of charters outperform their host districts. However, data from the State Department of Education reveals that about 90 percent of Connecticut’s charters serve a less needy population than their host districts: fewer poor children, fewer English Language Learners or fewer students with disabilities, with most having a combination of two or three of these categories.

Considering poverty, language barriers and special education needs are the prominent factors influencing standardized test scores, it is not much a feat to have higher test scores with a less challenging population. ConnCAN’s claim is hardly an indication of success or innovation.”

Read the rest of Lecker’s commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Imagining-where-all-that-money-4526450.php#ixzz2TlStOU64

The consistently wrong path to better schools by Wendy Lecker

Wendy Lecker, the pro-public education advocate and fellow columnist hits it out of the park; again, with a new commentary piece in Stamford Advocate entitled “The consistently wrong path to better Schools.

Improving education achievement in our major cities must be a top priority for all of Connecticut’s citizens.  Access to higher quality public schools is a fundamental American right, and is even guaranteed by Connecticut’s Constitution.  In addition, in the near future, 40% of Connecticut’s entire workforce will be coming from our state’s poorer, urban, Priority School Districts.  Our state’s economic future depends on providing all of our young people with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed.  Finally, the price tag for creating quality schools is not cheap.  Connecticut’s schools are already underfunded and yet Connecticut taxpayers are paying about 80% of the entire educational expenses in cities like Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.

Education is both the economic and civil rights issue of our time.

Governor Malloy, Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, Bridgeport “Superintendent of Schools,” Paul Vallas, “Special Master,” Steven Adamowski and the corporate education reformers claim to have the solution – simply hand our public schools over to private corporations.

The approach being perpetrated by these corporate reformers couldn’t be more wrong and Wendy Lecker’s latest column dives that point home.

Wendy Lecker writes;

“Most people who board the wrong train headed to the wrong destination get off and look for the right train.

But not the educational leadership of Hartford.

Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, a protégé of the controversial “reformer” Steven Adamowski, has climbed on the wrong train despite the obvious signs that it will take Hartford in the wrong direction.

In her state of the schools address, Kishimoto highlighted a study conducted for her by University of Connecticut researchers. The study measured, by neighborhood, factors that inhibit the ability to learn, such as child poverty, the percentage of adults without high school or college degrees, crime, health, housing and neighborhood stability, and community assets such as preschool and after-school programs.

Fifty years of research have established that these out-of-school influences account for the majority of differences in student achievement.

In a recent New York Times article, Stanford University’s Sean Reardon summarized his research demonstrating that income inequality is the prime factor in educational disparities. As Professor Reardon noted, schools do not “produce much of the disparity in test scores between high- and low-income students.”

Reardon’s research revealed that the achievement gap between high-income and low-income students has widened in the past three decades largely because income inequality has increased, affluent students arrive to kindergarten better prepared than poor students, and affluent parents spend more on enrichment and tutoring.

Our best chance to reduce academic disparities, then, is to work to reduce economic inequities.

To the extent schools can help, we must give them the capacity to counteract the forces that hinder learning. That means a sufficient number of social workers, school psychologists, health centers, extra academic help and support for children and families, as well as a rich and varied curriculum.

However, rather than address the factors that prevent Hartford’s neediest children from learning, Hartford Superintendent Kishimoto seems intent on taking us in completely the wrong direction, ignoring the evidence she herself requested.

First on Kishimoto’s agenda is expanding the Achievement First charter franchise in Hartford. Achievement First, Inc., already operates a charter school in Hartford and is notorious for failing to serve Hartford’s neediest children. In a city where 43 percent of students come from non-English-speaking homes, only 4.8 percent of Achievement First’s students come from non-English-speaking homes. In Hartford, 18 percent of students are not fluent in English; at Achievement First, 4.8 percent. Thirteen percent of Hartford’s students have disabilities compared with 7.5 percent at Achievement First. Moreover, Achievement First has a 25 percent attrition rate.

Achievement First, a state charter school, is funded directly by the state and is not part of Hartford’s school district. However, Hartford Public Schools must pay for special education services and transportation for Hartford children attending the school. On top of this requirement, Hartford public schools paid $1.5 million dollars for capital improvements on Achievement First’s school building, which the charter uses for free. Additionally, Hartford and Achievement First entered into an agreement whereby the district pays more money to the charter company. This coming year, the district is scheduled to pay Achievement First over $3.2 million.”

Wendy’s assessment the approach being implemented by Hartford Superintendent Christina Kishimoto is harsh but 100% accurate.

Take the time to read the whole column at the Stamford Advocate at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-The-consistently-wrong-path-to-4487142.php#ixzz2SQUbtfw3

No need to break the law — just have it changed for you (by Wendy Lecker)

Fellow pro-public education advocate and columnist hits the mark, yet again, with her column in this past weekend’s CT Post, Stamford Advocate and other Hearst Media Group outlets.  Her piece is entitled, No need to break the law — just have it changed for you.

In the piece, Wendy writes, “The education “reform” movement has been rocked recently by revelations that its biggest stars are more concerned with the appearance of success than whether children actually learn.”

With that she outlines the two major scandals involving cheating on standardized tests that have been in the news.

But the core of her column is about the approach the corporate education reformers are taking here in Connecticut.

“Not to be outdone, we Nutmeggers have employed our Yankee ingenuity to game the system, as well. While superintendent of Hartford, Steven Adamowski boasted major increases in test scores — a result, he claimed, of his reform methods, including school closures, school choice and merit pay. However, as revealed by Hartford Board of Education member Robert Cotto, the gains in test scores in Hartford during that period can largely be explained by the district’s exclusion of a significant percentage of students with disabilities from the regular test and having them take a modified assessment that did not count in Hartford’s test scores. As Cotto described, it Hartford engaged in “addition by subtraction.” Neat!

Connecticut’s Legislature and state Board of Education can be crafty, too, and it’s all legal. Connecticut law provides that school administrators be certified, to ensure that our schools and school districts are led by individuals with the knowledge and experience to properly oversee the education of our children. All of Connecticut’s permanent superintendents are certified to be superintendents — except one: Paul Vallas, superintendent of Bridgeport schools, serving approximately 20,000 students. To remedy this problem, Governor Malloy wrote a law enabling Vallas to be certified if he completed an educational leadership course approved by the state board of education. But then, another problem arose: the state Board of Education did not approve any course and Bridgeport already hired Vallas permanently.

Not to worry! UConn quickly devised a course it claimed was just like what all other superintendents must pass. As Jonathan Pelto has pointed out, though, a regular superintendent candidate must have 15 credits beyond a master’s degree; go through a rigorous application process that requires a full faculty review of one’s application; complete an additional 15 credits of course work in the program; and pay approximately $30,000 in tuition and fees. UConn’s program, hastily approved by the state Board of Education, only requires Vallas to enroll in a three-credit, one semester independent study course at a cost of about $4,000. More legal cheating!”

Wendy ends with a reminder to our children writing, “So, kids, if you want to grow up to change the world like these star reformers, you don’t need to learn anything of substance (don’t worry, with standardized tests in every grade and subject, soon you won’t be learning anything of substance, anyway). But don’t break the law! Simply ally yourselves with those who make the laws and they will bend and twist them to make your dreams of greatness come true!”

The column is well worth the read and you can find the complete column here:  http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-No-need-to-break-the-law-just-4448335.php#ixzz2RCIUZ79S

 

“School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law” + “Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?”

Fellow public school advocates and columnists, Wendy Lecker and Sara Darer Littman have written TWO MUST READ columns this week.

School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law” (Wendy Lecker) and “Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?” (Sarah Darer Littman) present a stunning portrayal of the abuses that have become the hallmark of Connecticut’s education reform industry.

As the two articles explain, the ethical and legal abuses reach into the highest levels of state government.

School ‘reformers’ should at least follow the law

Published in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst Media Group outlets, Wendy Lecker writes;

“When Joel Klein was chancellor of New York City’s school district, a New York legislator criticized him for engaging in activities contrary to the legislation granting mayoral control of New York’s schools, and depriving parents of a voice in how schools were run. Mr. Klein’s response was that if the legislator did not like what the chancellor was doing he could “sue me, that is what courts are for.”

As a lawyer, rather than an educator, Joel Klein revealed a troubling disregard for parental involvement; a crucial element in school success, as any educator knows. Even more disturbing was the disdain Klein, a former Justice Department lawyer, showed for the law.

Sadly, this attitude of thumbing one’s nose at the public and ignoring the law are the hallmarks of today’s education “reformers.” They have no patience for evidence that their reforms will work, for earning the public trust or even for the law. To them, the ends that they desire justify all means.

Nowhere is this “so sue me” attitude more in display than in Connecticut, where those pushing education “reform,” Gov. Dannel Malloy and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, are, like Joel Klein, lawyers who never worked in a public school. Connecticut’s public education officials have no problem violating laws to advance their agendas — even laws they wrote.”

You can read the whole column here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-School-reformers-should-at-least-4413263.php#ixzz2Ph8iofRm

 

Who Is Holding Education Reformers Accountable?”

Published in CTNewsjunkie, Sara Darer Littman writes;

“One of the hallmark refrains of the corporate education reform movement is “accountability.” Strangely, their zeal for the concept does not extend to those who implement reforms. Let’s look at two key figures in Connecticut and see how accountable they have been to the state’s taxpayers.

First up, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. Shortly after being appointed to his post, Pryor started hiring consultants to work on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education reform package. Like most reformers, he had preferred consultants. State bidding procedures? Why bother when he could funnel contracts through the State Education Resource Center (SERC) by claiming it’s a nonprofit?

That was until Tom Swan of the Connecticut Citizen Action Group (CCAG) filed a Freedom of Information request on state Education Department contracting procedures in Feb. 2012, drawing the ire of Malloy’s legal counsel, Andrew McDonald. ‘This is one of the more reckless efforts I’ve seen by Tom,’ McDonald told Hearst newspapers at the time.  ‘His complaint is devoid of any evidence to support his sensational conclusions regarding the governor. If not today, then sometime soon, he’d better be prepared to put some substance behind these thin assertions.’

Fast forward a year, when the State Auditors office released an interim report on the matter.

In the report, the auditors state:

‘SERC represents itself as a nonprofit organization on its website. However, the statutory language indicates that SERC was created as a state entity. SERC has not acted in a manner that is consistent with state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.’

On the next page but within the same section of the report, the auditors also state:

‘On at least two recent occasions, SERC entered into an agreement to employ individuals who would report directly to the commissioner of the Department of Education or a designee … In each of these cases, the commissioner instructed SERC to employ specific individuals. In each case, the employment contract (personal service agreement) was between the individual who was employed by SERC and either the State Board of Education or the State Department of Education. On two other occasions, contracts were entered into with private companies to provide various consulting services … Again, the contracts were executed by the State Department of Education, SERC and the private company. The contracts state that the Department of Education selected the vendor and SERC was not responsible for directing or monitoring the vendors’ activities. In each of these cases, the state’s personal service agreement procedures and its contracting procedures were not followed.’

It looks like Mr. McDonald, who is now a Supreme Court justice, has some explaining to do.”

You can read the whole column here: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/who_is_holding_the_reformers_accountable/

It’s only the most important school funding case in our lives – Malloy supported it/Now he opposes it

This week, fellow public education advocate and fellow blogger Wendy Lecker’s “must read” commentary piece is entitled “Malloy reverses earlier commitment to school funding case.” 

We’ll be hearing  and I’ll be writing a lot more about this incredibly pivotal law suit, but Wendy Lecker’s column really frames the issues and provides readers with a great update about where things stand.

Lecker writes, “As Stamford’s mayor, Dannel Malloy was an original plaintiff in the pending school funding case, The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, and led the charge to win just and equitable funding for Connecticut schools. Now, Governor Malloy is trying aggressively to get the case dismissed. In doing so, he has exposed his 2012 education reforms as empty promises compared to what Connecticut’s children really need.

The plaintiffs in CCJEF v. Rell charge that the state is violating the constitutional right of Connecticut’s children to an adequate education by depriving school districts of billions of dollars. Consequently, schools, especially in Connecticut’s neediest districts, cannot afford basic educational tools such as a sufficient number of teachers, reasonable class size, adequate school facilities, services for at-risk children, electives, AP classes, even books, computers and paper.

Governor Malloy’s budget director admitted the state is shortchanging our schools by about $2 billion and even Governor Malloy conceded that the state is not currently meeting its constitutional duty to adequately fund our schools.

But that reality hasn’t stopped the state from trying to duck the lawsuit. Instead, the state claims that the 2012 education “reform” legislation will fix everything, while at the same time as much as acknowledging that they have no evidence to show that their reforms will actually work.”

You can read Lecker’s full commentary piece at the Stamford Advocate: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Malloy-reverses-earlier-commitment-4377589.php

Earlier this month, Dianne Kaplan DeVries also wrote about the pending case in a CTNewsjunkie piece entitled Fighting Children in the Courtroom.  Dianne Kaplan DeVries is the Project Director for the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding, the plaintiffs in the CCJEF v. Rell education adequacy and equity lawsuit.  Her article provides additional valuable background on the case.

“Gifted” to the right, “Special” to the left, the rest of you sit down and wait

As Wait, What Readers learned in late February after reading, Blessed are the Gifted for they shall inherit the earth, “education reformers” extraordinaire Steven Adamowski and Paul Vallas have struck again.

Adamowski, Hartford’s former Superintendent of Schools and now “Special Master” of Windham and New London schools thanks to Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor and Paul Vallas, who was recruited to serve as Bridgeport’s Acting Superintendent of Schools by Stefan Pryor, are part of a team that have announced the creation of three “gifted academies” for Windham, New London and Bridgeport.

Fellow blogger and public education advocate Wendy Lecker, has used her latest column in the Hearst newspapers to blow the whistle on this absurd, even revolting, proposal.

In a column entitled, A return to school segregation?, Lecker explains why the proposal for gifted academies is an insult and attack on the entire public education system. 

As she writes, “From Brown vs. Board of Education to Connecticut’s landmark case, Sheff v. O’Neill, to the language of the Connecticut constitution, the law has been clear. Children have a constitutionally guaranteed right to a public education that is not impaired by isolation based on race, ethnicity, national origin or disability. Therefore, it is unconstitutional to develop and fund education programs that intentionally or unintentionally limit access to educational opportunities based on racial or ethnic backgrounds, or disabilities.”

But as she clearly lays out, these new “gifted academies” move Connecticut away from the true mission of public education and back to the ugly era of school segregation.

As Lecker adds, not only is it unbelievable that that Pryor, Adamowski and Vallas are setting up these “academies,” but they are intending to use the Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMTs) as major admission criteria.  Using CMTs is not only intellectually dishonest but will further divide our students on the basis of poverty, language barriers and the need for special education services.

Lecker’s latest commentary piece is a “must read” for many reasons, but “the most disturbing issue of all is that creating separate schools for “gifted” children violates Connecticut law and policies prohibiting school segregation.”

While the equal protection clauses in most state constitutions only bar discrimination, Connecticut’s expressly bans segregation as well as discrimination.

This plan violates Connecticut’s Constitution, it violates Connecticut law and it violates the official policy of the Connecticut state Board of Education.

Just three years ago, under the leadership of then Commissioner of Education, Dr. Mark McQuillan, the State Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution blasting the destructive effect of separating children based on ability because grouping by ability “limits achievement and stifles expectation and opportunity for college and successful competition in the workplace.”

Lecker highlights the wording of the State Board of Education resolution;

“The board unanimously disapproved any practice that permanently groups students for instruction. As the board noted, the practice of tracking disproportionately burdens poor, African-American and Latino students.

The state board resolved that any school district that assigned students to a particular level based on assessed or perceived readiness had to disclose this fact to parents and report to the state the research proving that this separate placement was necessary, the length of time it planned to deny children in lower levels access to learning with higher-achieving peers, and the demographic characteristics of those children denied access to higher-achieving peers.”

And yet, here we are; a new Commissioner of Education and two of his top confidants are part of a new policy that will stand as a testament to how far we can move away from the principles and ideals of full and equal access to a quality education.

Lecker closes with what I believe is an absolutely correct observation – “And now, we have a proposal for “gifted only” schools, equipped with “gifted only” water fountains, “gifted only” bathrooms and “gifted only” lunchrooms…Something is very wrong here.”

I strongly urge you to take the time to read Wendy Lecker’s extraordinary piece at   http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-A-return-to-school-segregation-4340187.php