Archives for category: Administrators, superintendents

Peter Greene sees signs that educators are fed up with the top-down mandates from non-educator Arne Duncan, fed up with the failed punitive policies of NCLB and Race to the Top. Now we know that Washington cares about one thing only: test scores, and now we know that the beneficiaries of Washington’s obsession are the testing companies. We have now had nearly 15 years of test-based incentives and sanctions and ample evidence that this approach has driven joy out of learning and failed to achieve anything that benefits students or society.

As the school year begins, let’s hope that there will be more states following Vermont’s lead by rejecting federal mandates and setting forth their own vision of what good education looks like. Let’s hope that there will be more teachers like those in Chicago and at Garfield High in Seattle who insist on doing what’s right for their students. Let’s hope that there will be more superintendents like those in Washington State who were compelled by NCLB to send home a letter saying “we are a failing school,” but added a cover letter saying that it was not true. Let’s hope that integrity, courage, and candor break out everywhere.

Dr. Nicholas Gledich, Superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11 has proposed a three year moratorium on high stakes standardized testing. This takes courage in test-happy Colorado.

Dr. Gledich understands that high-stakes testing cheapens education, demoralizes teachers, and makes testing far more important than it should be. Tests should be used periodically to see how students are doing and if they need extra help. But today they have become the be-all and end-all of schooling. That’s not what the best private schools do. That’s not what public schools should do.

Thank you and congratulations, Dr. Gledich! Welcome to the honor roll!

The New London school board voted 6-0 to withdraw its offer of a contract for the superintendent job to Terrence Carter, a leader of the school turnaround organization AUSL in Chicago.

After the “Hartford Courant” published articles about discrepancies in the background of the man chosen to be the next superintendent of the New London schools, the school board asked a law firm to investigate the claims made about Terrence Carter. Carter was a high-level official at the Academy for Urban School Leadership in Chicago, which was in charge of most of the city’s “turnaround” schools. He was well-credentialed as a reformer.

A few days ago, the law firm of Shipman & Goodwin released the results of its investigation.

It confirmed the charges leveled by reporters Jon Lender and Kathleen Megan.

It was painful for me to read. I felt badly for Mr. Carter. How many others have inflated their credentials to move ahead? I don’t find his conduct acceptable. I just felt embarrassed for him.

Connecticut is a state with many wonderful teachers, administrators, and schools. The state consistently ranks second or third in the nation on NAEP.

The state has some districts with high poverty and low test scores. Governor Dannel Malloy decided to solve their problems by aligning himself with the privatization by charter crowd. He hired Stefan Pryor, a co-founder of a charter chain, as his state commissioner and trusted him to enlarge the charters’ market share.

Malloy directed funding to charter chains, and things seemed to go his way until one of his favorite charter chains got in trouble. First it was revealed in the Hartford Courant that Michael Sharpe, CEO of the FUSE Jumoke charter chain, had a criminal record. Then it came out that he did not have a doctorate, even though he called himself “Dr.” For some reason, people in Connecticut seemed more disturbed by the phony credential than by the long-ago felonies.

Then came the case of “Dr.” Terrence Carter, who was in line to be the next superintendent in Néw London. It turned out that he didn’t have a doctorate either. Not to worry, he said, because he was receiving one from Lesley University in Massachusetts on August 25.

Jon Lender, the investigative reporter at the Hartford Courant who has broken all these stories, reported today that Lesley University did not award a doctorate on August 25 to Mr. Carter.

Stefan Pryor has announced he will not serve another term as Commissioner. Malloy has said he will pursue the same agenda. Let’s hope he chooses someone who believes in conducting background checks.

Lets also hope that he gives thought to getting a better agenda. Charters don’t solve the problems of poverty. They drain money from the public schools, pick the students they want, exclude those who are most difficult to educate, and boast of their success.

Governor Malloy, you have a state with many outstanding and experienced educational leaders. Choose one of them to strengthen public schools in every community in the state.

Highland Park, New Jersey, bought out its controversial superintendent Timothy Capone for $112,766 (less than a year’s salary), although he had another three years to go on his contract.

Jersey Jazzman had previously written about Capone and identified him as a “reformer” connected to Chris Cerf who was anti-union and focused solely on test scores. Among his first actions was to fire nine employees, who happened to include the president and vice-president of the local teachers’ union.

He managed to alienate parent groups as well, and school board meetings tended to be standing-room-only, raucous affairs.

The lesson here, it would seem, is that controversial “reforms” can succeed where there is mayoral control or districts controlled by the state. But in a typical district with an elected school board, superintendents must practice the arts of persuasion and collaboration with parents, teachers, and the community. Not easy, but that’s leadership.

State Senator John C. Sheehan was one of many people in Rhode Island who wondered what State Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist wrote in the dissertation she completed in June 2012. It was about creating a new teacher evaluation system for the state, and Gist would not allow anyone to read it.

Sheehan eventually got a copy of the embargoed dissertation, and he understood why she wanted to keep it under wraps. The theory she wrote about was leadership based on respect and collaboration, on trust and “buy-in,”but her practice was heavy-handed, confrontational, and top-down.

Sheehan recalled the mass firing of staff at Central Falls High School, then the mass firing of teachers in Providence.

Sheehan wrote:

“As soon as students underperformed on tests, teachers were blamed for the failure, resulting in unprecedented low morale. The Gist reaction was on national display when all of the teachers at Central Falls High School were fired. The individual merits of the teachers did not matter nor did it matter if students had applied themselves or were disadvantaged. Under Gist’s leadership philosophy (corporate reform), all teachers were held strictly accountable for low school test scores. Educators were again broadsided by the mass firing of all of the teachers in Providence, a year later. What hurt the commissioner’s credibility in Providence was her defense of wholesale firings, calling them a “good and just cause” [ignoring RIDE’s own case law which would have prohibited firing all teachers].”

“Good leaders lead by example. If Gist were to do so, she would hold herself to the same standard and consequence for performance failure as she does teachers. In the new evaluation, teachers must develop Student Learning Objectives to be used to demonstrate their students are continually making progress based on standardized tests or other measures of student performance. If teachers do not meet this standard, they can be deemed “ineffective”. If teachers do not improve after a year, they face termination as had teachers in Central Falls Ironically, the Department of Education, at Gist’s request, has set 33 targets for statewide student performance. The bulk of them are related to closing the achievement gap while a few involve graduation rates and how students do after high school. In 2012, the state reached just 1 out of those 33 targets. In other years, under Gist’s leadership, RIDE did not fair much better. Yet, the commissioner is not held to account for these dismal results.”

He added:

“Gist failed to get the level of “buy-in” necessary to create a fair evaluation system that would garner the support of a majority of teachers. That failure was not due to teachers’ fear of change or being held accountable, but to the Commissioner’s own poor leadership ability. Befittingly, 82% of public school teachers polled had a negative view of Gist’s job performance! All things considered, I can appreciate why she wanted to keep her dissertation out of the public eye as long as possible.”

Jon Lender of the Hartford Courant describes in detail how the embattled candidate for New London superintendent, Terrence Carter, was the very model of a modern school reformer. He graduated from New Leaders for New Schools, founded by Obama and Clinton advisor Jonathan Schnur.

Terrence Carter had deep roots in the world of “reform.”

“To fully understand the Carter episode, it helps to look at him in the context of a national battle over non-traditional school-reform efforts. The high praise that he received from influential voices in recent years sounds almost ironic now – as New London’s school board has its law firm conducting an investigation that could send him packing.

“Terrence Carter represents a new breed of principals who entered the profession from business through an excellent principal training program called New Leaders for New Schools. The program, which operates in Chicago and five other cities and is about to add two more, imposes higher expectations on principals,” the Chicago Tribune said in an editorial Feb. 4, 2007.

“Carter then was principal of Clara Barton Elementary School, in a poor Chicago neighborhood, after receiving training at New Leaders, a national non-profit school-reform group co-founded by Jonathan Schnur, a former Clinton White House staffer and Obama campaign adviser.”

With his credentials, Carter advanced rapidly in Arne Duncan’s Chicago:

“The Obama administration has been receptive to school-reform efforts by groups like New Leaders. Obama appointed his fellow Illinois native, Arne Duncan, as secretary of education after Duncan ran the Chicago schools, cooperating with school reformers and engineering oft-controversial school “turnaround” projects where “new breed” principals were inserted.

“Chicago was an early battleground in what’s become a national controversy between traditional educators and teacher unions, on one side, and, reform activists such as New Leaders and charter school operators on the other. That fight is playing out in Connecticut, where Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy has appointed a charter school co-founder, Stefan Pryor, as a state education commissioner who supports turnaround efforts in low-performing schools.

“Skeptics about such efforts in Connecticut see more in the Carter controversy than just one candidate whose credentials and character have been questioned.

“This is how the pro-privatization, big-philanthropy-funded networks and organizations tend to work. They pass their own people along and up, greasing rails and plumping resumes as they go. And the main criteria for ‘success’ often seems not to be real leadership characteristics, so much as willingness to be a good soldier when it comes to pushing forward a particular reform agenda,” said Lauren Anderson, an assistant professor of education at Connecticut College in New London.”

Carter’s standing in the school-reform movement was such that in 2009 he accompanied Schnur to a presentation at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. The topic was New Leaders’ partnership with Chicago in the “turnaround” of several low-performing inner-city schools.

“New leaders like Terry” have made “dramatic gains” in student performance, Schnur said in a presentation that helped win an “Innovations in American Government” award from the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for the New Leaders-Chicago schools initiative.

“Terry for example — he didn’t spend 15 years as an assistant principal, but he was a chief learning officer at a Fortune 500 company working with and managing adults, and a former teacher, and brought that blend of skills to bear,” Schnur said in remarks still watchable on YouTube at http://youtu.be/sHjWtePruMU.”

Carter had the strong support of Connecticut State Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

“Anderson spoke against Carter’s hiring at a July 24 meeting in New London when the school board put off a scheduled vote to approve a contract for Carter — and instead instructed its legal counsel, Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford, to look into newspaper disclosures including the fact that Carter had used the titles Dr. and Ph.D. for years without holding a degree from an accredited university.

“Other newspaper revelations: he filed for bankruptcy twice; his application essay included long passages identical with other educators’ writings on the Internet; a national research organization released a copy of a bio that it says Carter submitted in 2011 with the claim that he had a Ph.D. from Stanford University, which Stanford says he does not; and he got a Ph.D. in 1996 from “Lexington University” — which doesn’t have a campus and had a website offering degrees for several hundred dollars with the motto “Order Now, Graduate Today!”

“Carter met in closed session with the school board on July 24, and said afterward that he did nothing wrong, never misrepresented his credentials to anyone now or in the past, and still wanted the job.”

“Carter had been selected by the school board in June, with Pryor’s endorsement, to begin running the troubled New London school system starting Aug. 1. At the time, he was the toast of New London and, in comments quoted by the Day newspaper, he invoked the name of Duncan, Obama’s national education secretary.

“The story noted that the Chicago-based Academy for Urban School Leadership — the education-reform group he’d been working for since leaving his principal’s job in 2010 — had been praised by Duncan and Rahm Emanuel, the former Obama chief of staff who now is mayor of Chicago. Carter said in the story that back in Chicago a decade ago, Duncan, then running the Chicago schools, had handpicked him from the New Leaders training program for school administrators.

“He saw my presentation and said, ‘I need this guy in Chicago,'” Carter said in the Day article.

“Duncan’s deputy press secretary declined a Courant request Thursday an interview with the national school chief or a statement about Carter.”

The Carter story is not about one man, but about the bipartisan movement to disregard credentials, to close schools, to hire ill-prepared TFA, and to favor privately managed schools over community public schools. To favor democratically elected school boards over management by hedge fund millionaires.

The Day reports that the language in the cover letter submitted by Terrence Carter to be superintendent in New London contained language identical to a cover letter written by another job applicant in Michigan in 2011. When will this charade end? If he fabricated his résumé and plagiarized his job application and cover letter, what more evidence is needed?

Here is an excerpt from The Day:

“New London — The cover letter Terrence P. Carter submitted with his application to be the city’s next superintendent bears a resemblance to a cover letter submitted by a different candidate seeking a Michigan superintendent job in 2011.
Carter’s cover letter, submitted on March 11 along with his application and resume, shares a similar structure and, in some cases, identical sentences.

“I bring an unbridled passion for educating children and adults, a track record of launching and directing critical educational programs, and exceptional leadership credentials,” Carter wrote in his letter. “If you are looking for a dynamic educational leader who has continually succeeded in the classroom, in academic programs, in the central office, and in corporate America, then my credentials will be of great value to you, your students, and your community.”

A cover letter submitted in 2011 by Frederick Charles Clarke, then a candidate for the superintendent job in Rochester, Mich., contains a similar passage.

“…I bring to your academic institution an unbridled passion for educating America’s youth, a track record of launching and directing critical educational programs, and exceptional leadership credentials,” Clarke wrote. “If you are looking for a dynamic educational leader who has continually succeeded in the classroom, in academic programs, and in the central office, perhaps my credentials will be of great value to you, your students and your community.”

The Day, a Connecticut publication, reports more problems for Terrence Carter, applicant for the superintendency at New London, who used the title “Dr.” and “Ph.D.” without having earned the title.

The Day reports that sections of Carter’s job application were identical to other publications. That is known as plagiarism and is unacceptable in school or higher education.

“New London – At least 10 paragraphs in the two-page essay Terrence P. Carter submitted with his application for the city’s superintendent of schools job contain material apparently copied from other sources without attribution, including academic journals, news articles and websites.

“In some cases, entire paragraphs of Carter’s March application are exactly the same as writings that previously appeared in other publications.”

Bertis Downs is a native of Georgia and a member of the board of the Network for Public Education.

He writes:

This is the best electoral news in a long time– Georgia Democrat Valarie Wilson won the runoff for state school superintendent, and it wasn’t even close: http://bit.ly/Us7qNi I am proud to be one of her supporters.

And on the Republican side a longtime educator, Richard Woods, won in a squeaker– he had strong support from the Tea Party for his opposition to Common Core, which many on the right consider a federal intrusion into what should be local decisions.

Valarie Wilson’s decisive win on the Democratic side is significant for Georgia, and it fits into a developing narrative that Money (doesn’t always) Mean Power, at least in the intersection of politics and schools. It’s great to add Georgia to the list of places where big, out of state, corporate reformist money did not beat a genuine pro-schools candidate who will fight for strong and effective public schools for all– Seattle, Los Angeles, Bridgeport, Newark, Indiana, over and over this pattern is being repeated. Diane Ravitch’s blog and the Network for Public Education are key ways to get the good word out. I guess people like Bloomberg, Huizenga, Rhee, DeVos, Broad, et al have millions to spend (ahem “invest”), but all those $6,300 (+/-) check-writers from California and New York and elsewhere must be feeling a little ripped off this morning. Campaign disclosures, especially when analyzed and broken down on Diane’s blog, are a beautiful thing in a democracy! http://bit.ly/UoWuQC. And I guess, in a way, money does in fact talk– despite Valarie’s opponent’s decision to play down her involvement in the so-called choice movement, the extent of her out of state support, and the fear that she would indeed “dance with who brung her” if elected, likely helped propel Valarie, who raised virtually all her support here in Georgia.

And on the Republican side, and let’s be realistic– Rs generally beat Ds lately in GA– Richard Woods is a solid candidate who believes in public education and is not in deep with the corporate interests looking to privatize our schools. Either way, whatever the outcome in November, Georgia will not have someone really bad running our schools, and that is a relief. I am confident that Georgia’s next superintendent — whether Wilson or Woods — will address and improve the shortcomings of our schools while celebrating and replicating what works in advancing teaching and learning in our classrooms, supporting teachers and helping them improve, and restoring funding cuts that have reduced our school year and increased our class sizes. And if we are really lucky, the next Superintendent will courageously start the long walk back from the absurd amount of standardized testing being forced on our children and our schools, and back to sane and effective assessment and evaluations that help Georgia attract and retain quality teachers. As has been said, a teacher’s working conditions are our childrens’ learning conditions. I look forward to a superintendent who knows this. (And it would of course be really great if that Superintendent could serve under a Governor who shares their view of public schools– see, e.g. https://carterforgovernor.com/issues/)

The results in Georgia send a powerful message that what the people want, Republicans and Democrats alike, is pretty straightforward: good public schools where they are proud to send their children. And the selection of the fall candidates, Richard Woods and especially Valarie Wilson, is a clear rejection of the status quo of the false cures and nice-sounding quick fixes offered by the well-capitalized marketers of “school reform.”

Bertis Downs

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