Archives for category: Connecticut

Jonathan Pelto is stunned. Despite Governor Malloy’s anti-teacher policies, the Connecticut Education Association endorsed him.

“NEWS FLASH: The only Democratic governor in the nation to propose doing away with teacher tenure for all teachers and repealing collective bargaining for teachers working in the poorest district has received the endorsement of the Connecticut Education Association’s Board of Directors.

“According to multiple sources, the CEA’s Board of Directors reversed the decision the CEA’s Political Action Committee, who had recommended that the state’s largest public employee union make no endorsement in the gubernatorial campaign.

“Considering Malloy’s recent and repeated pledge to “stay the course” on his education reform initiatives, one can only assume that Malloy’s political operatives must have made some “significant promises” since, on the key issues listed below, Malloy has refused to PUBLICLY change his anti-teacher, anti-public education stance.

“Why the American Federation of Teachers and Connecticut Education Association would endorse Malloy without demanding that he publicly retreat from his corporate education reform industry stance is breathtaking.

“For more than two and a half years, Wait, What? has been a platform for laying out and discussing Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy and his administration’s unprecedented attack on public education in Connecticut. Throughout that time Malloy has not made any real or meaningful changes to his policies. Instead, he has continued to undermining teachers and the teaching profession. His disdain for the most important profession in the world and the value of comprehensive public education has been absolute.

“The CEA’s endorsement means that the leadership of all of the major public employee unions in Connecticut have thrown their support behind the candidate who has pledged that he will not propose or accept any tax increase during this second term, despite the fact that Connecticut is facing a $4.8 billion budget shortfall over the next three years.While Connecticut’s millionaires continue to celebrate the fact that they have been spared the need to “sacrifice” by being required to pay their fair share in taxes, Malloy’s policies will ensure massive increases in local property taxes for the middle class and widespread cuts in local education budgets.”

This is an excellent letter to the editor that asks the right questions about charters:

Why do they get public money yet refuse to submit to public audits?

Why do they enroll fewer children in poverty?

Why do their leaders refuse to aid struggling public schools?

Why do they claim that the only way to help poor children is to move them to their privately managed schools?

Why do they refuse to acknowledge that public magnet schools outperform charter schools?

Why are charters the preferred “reform” of some of the state’s wealthiest citizens?

Why do charter advocates slander our public schools?

Wendy Lecker, civil rights attorney, takes Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy to task for his empty rhetoric about testing. He has consistently been a fervent support of standardized, high-stakes testing. Yet now he wants to roll back one test, in the 11th grade. Who is he fooling?

 

 

Throughout his administration, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s education policies have been characterized by a disdain for evidence of what helps children learn, and a refusal to listen to those closest to students — parents and teachers. While it has been proven that test-based accountability has done nothing to help learning, and has increased stress in children of all ages, Malloy callously maintained, “I’ll settle for teaching to the test if it means raising test scores.”

 

Now, weeks before the gubernatorial election, the governor has suddenly declared an interest in the welfare of children — or some children. In a self-congratulatory news release, the governor announced that he wrote to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to begin a “dialogue” about how to reduce one standardized test for 11th graders.

 

Malloy’s newly discovered concern for over-testing for one grade must be understood against his record on standardized testing. Just two years ago, the Malloy administration rushed through an application for an NCLB “waiver,” which exchanged some of NCLB’s mandates for many other mandates — including massively increasing standardized testing. The waiver obligated the state to administer the Common Core tests, including moving the high school test from 10th to 11th grade, and to use the widely discredited method of including standardized test scores in teacher evaluations.

 

Recognizing the potential for an explosion in standardized testing, parents, school board members and teachers implored the Malloy administration not to apply for the NCLB waiver until it assessed the impact on our children and the cost to taxpayers. Yet, the Malloy administration ignored these warnings and submitted the application….

 

Though Malloy professes concern about over-testing 11th graders, in reality he plans to increase testing for everyone. In May, his PEAC commission announced a plan to use multiple standardized tests in teacher evaluations going forward. Not only does this plan double down on the flawed practice of using standardized tests to measure a teacher’s performance, it also vastly increases testing for children. The SBAC interim tests, which the Malloy administration recommends, will likely double the standardized testing that already exists.

Against the reality of his policies, Malloy’s letter to Duncan proves to be nothing more than political posturing.

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Darer Littman, who writes about education issues in Connecticut, tells a shocking story here of power and money.

The Hartford, Connecticut, schools are under mayoral control; the mayor appoints 5 of 9 members of the board of education. The other four are elected by the public. But the Board is bound by its bylaws to act as a whole. The five are not supposed to hold secret meetings to make policy.

But that is exactly what happened. The mayor’s five appointees met in secret with the Gates Foundation and charter school advocates. The Gates Foundation announced a $5 million grant in December 2012.

“On June 29, 2012, staff members of the Gates Foundation came to Hartford for a meeting. According to a memo former Hartford Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto sent to the Board on October 12, 2012 — which was the first time the wider board knew of the meeting — “Participants included Board of Education Chair Matthew Poland, Mayor Segarra, Hartford Public Schools, Achievement First and Jumoke Academy senior staff members, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Connecticut Council for Education Reform, ConnCAN, and other corporate, community and philanthropic partners.”

“The grant was paid through the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, which receives 3 percent of the total ($150,000) for serving as fiscal agent. $150,000. Just think of all the Donors Choose literacy programs in Hartford that money would fund, saving teachers the indignity of having to beg donations for sets of classroom books.

“But that’s not the worst part about the Gates grant. What’s really disturbing is that by funneling a grant through another foundation, a private foundation was able to impose public policy behind closed doors, and what’s more, impose policy that required taxpayer money — all without transparency or accountability.”

“I had to file a Freedom of Information request in order to get a copy of the paperwork on the Gates grant and what I received was only the partial information, because as Connecticut taxpayers will have learned from the Jumoke/FUSE fiasco, while charter schools consistently argue they are “public” when it comes to accepting money from the state, they are quick to claim that they are private institutions when it comes to transparency and accountability.

“But what is clear from the grant paperwork is that Hartford Public Schools committed to giving more schools to Achievement First and Jumoke Academy/Fuse, a commitment made by just some members of the Board of Education in applying for the grant, which appears to be a clear abrogation of the bylaws. Further, as a result of the commitment made by those board members, financial costs would accrue to Hartford Public Schools that were not covered by the grant — for example, the technology to administer the NWEA map tests, something I wrote about back in December 2012, just after the grant was announced.

“One of the Gates Foundation grant’s four initiatives was to “Build the district’s capacity to retain quality school leaders through the transformation of low-performing schools, replicating Jumoke Academy’s successful model of a holistic education approach.”

Littman wrote to Gates to ask whether they had conducted any “due diligence” review of Jumoke Academy before imposing these conditions of replicating it. This far, the foundation has not responded to her inquiry.

As you may recall, Jumoke Academy and its parent organization FUSE are now under FBI investigation. It no longer manages any schools in Connecticut. It is also under state investigation. “Those investigations were prompted after Michael Sharpe, the charter school management group’s CEO, resigned following news reports revealing his criminal past. Sharpe also admitted to a Hartford Courant reporter that he had lied about his education credentials.”

Littman also points out that the alphabet soup of corporate reformers had been enthusiastic supporters of Jumoke. The chain was in line to get two more charter schools from the state, and $1 million from the Gates Foundation.

Littman asks:

“Aren’t these the same people who are telling us to run schools like businesses? Isn’t due diligence part of doing business?”

She concludes:

“Let’s recognize that just because someone is a wealthy business person doesn’t mean they always make the right choices. Look at Microsoft’s performance during the stacked ranking years. By accepting a gift from the Gates Foundation in this manner, Hartford admitted a Trojan horse to disrupt public education and disable democracy, submitting voters to the dictates of one wealthy man.”

Jumoke Academy, once the star charter school of Governor Malloy and State Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor, paid over $1 million to the husband of an executive for renovations, according to the Hartford Courant.

“HARTFORD — The Jumoke Academy charter school organization, now facing a state probe into allegations of nepotism, directed more than a million dollars in construction work to the husband of one of its executives, a Courant investigation has found.

“Jumoke’s payments to HSK Home Improvements included at least $85,000 in state grant money used to renovate a Victorian mansion and convert its second floor into an apartment later occupied by the charter group’s longtime leader, Michael M. Sharpe. The apartment, built in 2012 to Sharpe’s specifications, featured a new $12,000 master bathroom with a custom glass shower door.

“State records show HSK Home Improvements is owned by Kenneth Hollis and operated out of his East Hartford home. His wife, Anette Hollis, served as Jumoke’s facilities director and later became chief operating officer of Family Urban Schools of Excellence, the charter management group that ran Jumoke’s schools after Sharpe founded FUSE in 2012.

“Anette Hollis, who lost her job when FUSE collapsed this summer, said in August that she had no role in any of the work her husband performed for Jumoke, “because it was obviously a conflict of interest.”

“But Jumoke financial records show more than $26,000 in purchase orders for HSK that bear her name; among them, a $1,615 job in July 2011 that included painting her office. Anette Hollis did not respond to a subsequent request for comment.

“Kenneth Hollis was most active at Jumoke in 2012 and 2013, when his company received about $540,000 from the state-funded charter operation. But records obtained from Jumoke through a Freedom of Information request show that HSK has performed work for the organization dating back to at least 2000 and has been paid more than $1 million in total.”

Whoever thought it was a good idea to turn education into a political issue should hang his or her head in shame.

In the midst of a heated gubernatorial race, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, heretofore an admirer of testing and the Common Core and more testing, has written a letter to the U.S. Department of Education saying that students are tested too much, especially in the 11th grade.

“Gov. Dannel P. Malloy appealed to the U.S. Department of Education on Friday to consider whether juniors in Connecticut really need to take a statewide standardized test in the same year that they have SATs, ACTs, AP exams and finals.

“Federal law requires states to test students from grades 3-8 and again in 10th grade. But the new high school test for the Common Core standards is given to 11th graders, with the thinking it yields better data on student learning. This was the first year the test was given to juniors, causing an uproar from some parents.

“I am eager to explore solutions for the students who may be our most overtested: our 11th graders,” Malloy said in the letter to the U.S. Education Department.”

Tom Scarice, the superintendent of the Madison, Connecticut, public schools, writes that the campaign for the Common Core has been waged with fear tactics, mainly the fear that other nations have higher scores and will therefore “beat” us. But, he points out, citing the work of Yong Zhao, there is no connection between test scores and economic growth.

He concludes:

“Reducing the debate of the common core to a matter of implementation is intellectually weak. A number of other matters remain unresolved. The standards were never field tested with actual students. They have been largely influenced through massive donations via powerful philanthropic organizations such as the Gates Foundation, creating a chilling question about the consequential influence of one billionaire on our education system. Questions about whether or not the standards are appropriate for our youngest and most fragile learners have been raised by over 500 nationally recognized early childhood experts, and special education organizations. Categorically, no evidence exists to support the stance that the common core will raise the achievement of our most impoverished students, which is the most pressing challenge facing Connecticut. Education is much too complex to reduce our work to another futile silver bullet.

“Connecticut has had academic standards for decades. Academic standards, developed by education professionals, are largely embraced by educators. They serve to set clear expectations for the accountability of learning and form the basis of curriculum. However, the rigidity of the common core, mandating that each and every student achieve the same learning progressions, regardless of learning style, and individual learning profile, at the exact same rate, contribute to the epidemic of standardization and homogenization that has afflicted our schools for the past decade. This is particularly concerning when the global marketplace and the demands of citizenship in this era clearly necessitate an individual’s diversity of thought and skills.

“All that said, even within the broken testing and evaluation systems suffocating our schools, there are many individual standards within the common core that are worthy of academic pursuit. Districts would be best served to approach the common core with thoughtful analysis of the potential efficacy and appropriateness of each individual standard as they integrate them into curriculum. Plausible rejection of individual standards by local professional educators must be shared transparently with Boards of Education and the local community, backed up with appropriate justification. As always, healthy skepticism and deep analysis serve systems well. Every state and every district has multiple indicators of student success. What would local accountability look like beyond one tightly coupled measure to the common core? Is student success defined by performance on the SBAC, and if not, will local districts have the fortitude to move beyond the narrow, inadequate comparisons that are provided by standardized assessments?There is more to the story of student success beyond the implementation of the common core.”

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.

Jonathan Pelto will not be on the ballot in Connecticut as a Gubernatorial candidate. He did his best but did not collect enough signatures. He raised important issues, which should be raised by the media and the public during the campaign. That is the role of protest candidates. Thank you, Jon, for being a stalwart champion of children, teachers, and public education.

Here is his statement:

“Pelto Statement on falling short of the 7,500 signatures needed to get on the ballot”

Later today, the Connecticut Secretary of State’s Office is expected to officially announce that the Jonathan Pelto/Ebony Murphy ticket did not collect the 7,500 certified signatures needed to qualify for a position on the 2014 gubernatorial ballot.

On behalf of the Pelto/Murphy campaign, Jonathan Pelto has released the following statement;

“We are, of course, deeply disappointed that we were unable to collect a sufficient number of signatures to qualify as 3rd party candidates for governor and lt. governor. While we failed to achieve that critical goal, we’re hopeful that our effort has and will continue to spur a more serious discussion about the critically important issues facing Connecticut.

I want to especially thank Ebony Murphy for agreeing to serves as my running-mate, the hundreds of people who helped collect signatures and the thousands of people who signed our petition. We are also especially grateful to those who provided the campaign with their financial support.

I apologize to all of our supporters for our inability to get onto the ballot, but want to assure them and the citizens of Connecticut that we will continue to stand up and speak out about the problems facing our state and our society and the solutions that will be necessary to ensure a better future of our of our state’s residents.

The petitioning process was an eye opening one. While requiring candidates to collect 7,500 signatures to qualify for a position on the gubernatorial ballot continues to seem like a reasonable number, the primitive and burdensome laws and archaic system clearly serves as an unfair barrier to those who believe our democratic system would be better served if voters had more choices when they go to vote.

In the coming months we’ll seek to partner with other 3rd parties, their supporters and those who believe in a more open and democratic process so that we can develop and advocate for a legislative package that will reduce the unfair aspects of the petitioning process and create a more open, democratic system of campaigns and elections.

I also want to offer a special thank you to Connecticut’s reporters and media for providing us with fair and extensive coverage of our campaign.

Finally, a special word of congratulations goes out to Joe Visconti, the other 3rd party candidate, who, along with his team of supporters, did a remarkable job collecting the signatures necessary to get on the ballot. Joe has shown that the People can challenge the incumbency parties and, shake up the establishment. I wish him continued success as he speaks out on the issues he is so passionate about.”

Given the recent scandal over Jumoke Academy and its sponsor, FUSE, you would think the State Board of Education and State Commissioner Stefan Pryor would be extra careful when authorizing new charters, but you would be wrong.

Civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker writes here about the Board’s perfunctory scrutiny of applicants and the absence of any due diligence when someone wants a charter. The charter world, it turns out, is very cozy indeed. Michael Sharpe, the ex-CEO of Jumoke Academy was supposed to run a new charter called Booker T. Washington Academy in New Haven. After Sharpe resigned, the founder of the school wanted to proceed without Sharpe.

“Given Pryor’s and the Board’s gross negligence in allowing the first application to sail through without scrutiny, it was incumbent upon them to exert real oversight when the BTWA founder, Reverend Eldren Morrison, decided he still wanted to open a charter school. Since the original application was invalidated, Pryor and the Board should have required that BTWA repeat the same legally required process all charter school applicants must undergo.

“Instead, Commissioner Pryor and the State Board of Education rushed through a “modified” application ignoring both the charter law and SDE’s own procedure, which mandated, among other things, a local public hearing. The cut-and-pasted new application was presented directly to the State Board on August 4.

“Astoundingly, the State Board once again abdicated its responsibility and approved this modified application without any scrutiny.

“The most outrageous illustration of the Board’s negligence was its treatment of the school’s new director, John Taylor. Taylor, who had worked at the Northeast Charter Schools Network, co-founded by Michael Sharpe, touted his success founding and running a charter high school in Albany, called Green Tech.

“One board member questioned his record there, based on an article in Albany’s Times-Union. The newspaper reported that when Taylor ran the school, performance was abysmal- with a four-year graduation rate of only 36 percent and only 29 percent of students passing the English Language Arts Regents exam.

“When confronted with this data, Mr. Taylor flatly denied this report, claiming he had wanted a retraction from the newspaper.

“A quick check of the New York State Education Department website proves that the Times-Union`s data were accurate. Moreover, my source confirmed that Mr. Taylor never requested a retraction.”

Furthermore, writes Lecker, the close connections of the cozy charter world demand scrutiny, yet there is none:

“The new application is rife with dubious connections. Derrick Diggs of Diggs Construction Company submitted a letter of recommendation for the initial BTWA. Now, Diggs Construction will be handling the renovations for the new BTWA’s temporary and permanent buildings; which cost several hundred thousand taxpayer dollars. Jeff Klaus wrote a letter of recommendation for the initial application. Klaus’ wife is Dacia Toll, CEO of Achievement First Charter chain. Achievement First now has a contract with BTWA to provide professional development; and Achievement First is subletting its vacant building to BTWA as its temporary home. BTWA will return to AF a building renovated on the public dime. Given the self-dealing that permeated FUSE/Jumoke, it is shocking that the Board did not probe these questionable relationships.”

Neither the State Commissioner nor the State Board is willing to scrutinize these relationships. The situation is ripe for more trouble. No one is minding the taxpayers’ dollars or the children’s well-being.

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