Archives for category: Connecticut

Sarah Darer Littman, a journalist in Connecticut, read that Maryland will spend $100 million for Common Core testing.

This led her to wonder what the Common Core testing will cost in her own state.

She asked the State Education Department to fill in the blanks about costs and about what district will receive, and she was surprised by what she learned:

When I looked at the dollar grant per student on a district by district basis, some anomalies jumped out.

For example, the Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication charter in New London received $474 per pupil, whereas the New London School District received a mere $44 per pupil. I struggle to understand how this makes sense when New London is allegedly an Alliance District.

Similarly, the Park City Prep charter school in Bridgeport received $384 per pupil whereas Bridgeport District Schools received only $45 per pupil.

The Jumoke Academy Charter Schools network, which are operated by an organization called the Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE), received a $260 per pupil grant whereas the districts in which its charters operate, Hartford and Bridgeport, received $30 and $45 respectively.

The Achievement First Charter Schools network in Connecticut received $82 per pupil compared to Hartford’s $30 and Bridgeport’s $45. New Haven, the other city in which Achievement First operates charter schools, did better at $130 per pupil.

Why did New Haven ($130 per pupil) receive almost three times the grant of Bridgeport ($45 per pupil) and more than four times that of Hartford ($30 per pupil)? All three are in District Reference Group I, representing the districts with the highest need in the state. Their Adjusted Equalized Net Grand List per Capita (AENGLC) Rank/Weighted ANGLC Ranks are 167, 166 and 169 respectively. Based on the Education Cost Sharing Town Wealth and Rank, New Haven ranks 165, Bridgeport ranks 164 and Hartford 169.

Donnelly explained that “project proposals were developed at the local level. Project proposals reflect their individual needs and local readiness as determined by the district or school. Every grant request submitted by an Local Education Authority (LEA) was honored in accordance with their respective town wealth measure.” What’s important to note here is that, as defined by federal law, school districts are an LEA, but public charter schools and interdistrict magnet schools are considered LEA’s unto themselves.

She adds:

I’m still struggling to understand why a charter school in New London requires 10 times the grant on the basis of the number of students served than the district schools there. One wonders what guidance was received from the Education Department regarding these grants.

It turns out that the Education Department has not produced, and is not in the process of producing, a report on the full costs of implementing the Common Core in the state. According to the department, on top of the previously announced technology grant for which we are borrowing the money, “the state is investing approximately $8 million this year and $6 million next year to support implementation efforts.” I’m not sure if this includes the $1 million CCSS marketing campaign announced by State Education Commission Stefan Pryor last December, or if that’s a separate line item.

I’m also still struggling to understand why we’re using school construction bonds to finance the purchase of iPads and computers. That controversial practice hasn’t worked so well in Los Angeles.

The bottom line in Connecticut is that no one has figured out–or no one is revealing–what it will cost to install the technology and bandwidth and IT specialists for the Common Core testing.

It would be nice to know.

Blogger Jonathan Pelto reports that Governor Dannell Malloy of Connecticut plans to spend $1 million to a public relations firm to sell the idea of Common Core.

This suggests that he is concerned about the kind of public backlash that was caused by the botched implementation of Common Core in New York.

Connecticut is one of the three highest performing states on NAEP, and parents are not likely to take kindly to the new Common Core tests, which are likely to produce a sharp decline in test scores, as they have in other states. There are quite a lot of “suburban moms” in Connecticut. Lots of moms and dads who will not be easily persuaded that their children are failures. Not by Governor Malloy or Commissioner Stefan Pryor or a public relations firm with a $1 million contract.

Wendy Lecker, a civil rights attorney in Connecticut, remembers when Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy was a champion for equitable funding.

But no longer.

He recently spoke at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., and boasted about the success of his “reform” program.

According to Lecker:

At his AEI speech, Malloy shockingly dismissed the need to provide all children with educational opportunities as “old rhetoric.” His focus is not on educational opportunity, he claimed, but rather “educational success.” Malloy trumpeted his 2012 education “reform” legislation as providing the path to educational success.

Contrary to Malloy’s contention, educational opportunity is not just “old rhetoric.” The concept of educational opportunity has a specific constitutional meaning in Connecticut. Under our constitution, Connecticut must provide all children with “suitable educational opportunities.” Connecticut’s highest court has defined those opportunities as schools with sufficient resources to provide an education that prepares Connecticut’s children to participate in democratic institutions, attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.

As mayor of Stamford, Malloy understood the constitutional significance of educational opportunity. He was a founding member of theCCJEF coalition and one of the original plaintiffs in the suit demanding the state fulfill its legal obligation to provide fair and adequate funding to all Connecticut public schools.

Two days after Malloy spoke to AEI, a judge in Connecticut denied Malloy’s motion to dismiss the court case that he had helped initiate on behalf of fairness.

Malloy has abandoned his commitment to equality of education opportunity and now relies on high-stakes testing, evaluation of teachers by test scores, and ample funding to charter schools as the reforms that can take the place of equitable funding.

He even appointed a co-founder of the state’s leading charter chain as his state commissioner of education.

In his re-election campaign, Governor Malloy can count on the financial support of some of the wealthiest equity investors in the nation, who live in sheltered enclaves in places like Greenwich and Darien and support charter advocacy organization like ConnCAN.

Lecker writes:

In his motion to dismiss the CCJEF case, Malloy claimed there was no need to continue with this case because his 2012 education reforms cured all the constitutional deficiencies in Connecticut’s educational system. The judge disabused the governor of the fantasy that his reforms have actually improved Connecticut’s schools. He ruled that Malloy and the state presented no evidence to prove that his 2012 reforms were enacted to correct the constitutional inadequacies of Connecticut’s educational system or state school funding.

Malloy’s 2012 education legislation was not designed to provide Connecticut’s children with equal educational opportunity. As he admitted in his AEI speech, educational opportunity is no longer the governor’s focus. He would rather push unproven “reforms” that bear no relationship to what our highest court and our constitution recognize that our children need.

Another incredible claim made by Malloy at the AEI appearance was that his 2012 education legislation, for the first time in Connecticut history, directed copious amounts of money to Connecticut’s neediest districts.

A few hard numbers may help bring Malloy back to this planet. According to CCJEF’s expert’s analysis, updated to 2012 dollars, East Hartford’s school district is owed $6,131 per child in state funding. Malloy’s 2012 legislation gave them an increase of $214 per pupil. Bridgeport’s school district is owed $7,505 per child, but only received an increase of $209 per pupil in the 2012 legislation. The state owes New Britain’s children $10,185 per student. The 2012 legislation provided them with a whopping $245 per pupil increase. The list goes on and on. Moreover, as a condition for each tiny increase in ECS funding, these districts were saddled with costly mandates.

By contrast, charter schools, which educate 1 percent of Connecticut’s public school children and 90 percent of which serve a less needy population than their host districts, received an increase of $2,600 per pupil over three years in the 2012 legislation. Diverting state funding to 1 percent of public school children, who are often not the neediest, is likely to increase educational resource inequity in the state, especially when our neediest schools are getting so little.

 

EduShyster retains the capacity for astonishment and surprise.

In this post, she identifies some seemingly blatant conflicts of interest on the part of big players in the education reform world.

Yet no one cares. Ethics? What’s that?

She calls it “carerruption.”

I don’t feel like getting a lawyer’s letter today threatening to sue me for defamation, so I will ask you to read EduShyster yourself.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the three top performing states are Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut. You would think that the governors and legislatures of these states would shower praise on their successful educators and schools and protect and strengthen them. But none of these states is immune from the assault on public education by the privatization movement.

The notorious corporate reform lobbying group Stand for Children has pushed to remove due process rights from teachers in Massachusetts and to lift the cap on charter schools. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie speaks of his state’s schools as “failure factories.” In Connecticut, Governor Dannell Malloy hired a charter school founder as state commissioner and has been a darling of the super-rich who fund the privatization movement.

In this post, Jonathan Pelto describes just how closely tied Malloy is to the privatization movement. One of its main advocacy groups is ConnCAN, which is now 50CAN, whose goal is to spread the message about privatization nationwide.

The corporate reformers have Malloy funded his priorities:

“Since Malloy introduced the most anti-teacher, anti-union education reform bill of any Democratic governor in the nation, the corporate reform industry has spent more than $6 million lobbying on behalf of Malloy’s initiatives. One education reform group, A Better Connecticut, which was formed by the present and former CEOs of ConnCAN spent in excess of $2 million television advertisements “thanking” Malloy for his leadership in promoting charter schools and the privatization of public education.

“Malloy has also been going to the corporate education reform industry for campaign contributions.

“Last year Malloy, a held a lucrative fundraiser for the Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee at the home of Jonathan Sackler, the corporate executive who helped finance Achievement First, Inc., ConnCAN, 50-CAN and other education reform organizations. The fundraiser netted in excess of $40,000 for the Malloy related PAC.

“This year the money from the corporate education reform industry has been funneled through the federal and state accounts of the Democratic State Central Committee.

“Malloy’s recent contributions include another $20,000 from Sackler and his wife, at least $15,000 from other members of ConnCAN’s Board of Directors and at least $11,000 from members of Achievement First’s Board of Directors. Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, co-founded Achievement First, Inc. and the larger charter school management company has received a major increase in funding since Pryor took over the State Department of Education.”

Ebony Murphy-Root was intrigued by what she heard on television about Steve Perry’s Capitol Prep school in Hartford, and she applied to teach there. This is her report on her year teaching in Perry’s school.

She started work during the six-week summer session. And she noticed something strange:

“But within that six week period, six teachers disappeared. I didn’t yet know this but such sudden disappearances were a regular occurrence at Capital Prep. After the December break, one of the best teachers in the school simply failed to return. I never found out if she’d been fired or had just become disenchanted with the place. By that point the shine was already off for me. Dr. Perry was gone constantly, traveling the country on paid gigs even as he was accepting his sizable salary. Once we went almost a month without paper in the copy machine with no explanation.”

She was puzzled by Perry’s hatred of unions:

“Perry directed his insults toward members of the Hartford Board of Education, the Hartford Federation of Teachers, even other principals. I could never figure out Perry’s obsession with unions, and as the daughter of a Teamster it didn’t sit well with me. What sort of jobs did he envision for his students after college? I wondered. After all, Perry himself belonged to a union. If our poorest students had parents with union jobs, steady wages and paid time off, they might be able to support their kids better, both financially and emotionally. I wondered how Perry, if he’d ever been a classroom teacher himself, might teach about the history of the labor movement.”

She was not happy, and the school was not happy with her. By February, she was offered a choice of resigning or being fired.

This is an interesting insider’s view of a school that boasts of miraculous results.

Jonathan Pelto has recently posted several times about Steve Perry, who runs a magnet school in Hartford and boasts that he has the secret to success for all students, no matter what their background.

Perry is a “no excuses” kind of guy, who sets strict rules and enforces them with a strong hand.

In this post, Pelto reprints a letter from a public school parent about Perry and his methods.

The parent says that Perry would never be able to apply the same methods to white and/or middle class students.

Perry’s rule at Capital Prep is evidence of a deep racism, for the simple reason that his bullying and obnoxious ways would NEVER be tolerated in a middle class suburban school predominantly populated by “white” children. Perry would not dare to practice his authoritarianism on such children. He is an egotist, but even he cannot be so stupid as to antagonize middle class people with lawyers who know their rights. He knows that in Simsbury or West Hartford or in Farmington, parents would be after him so quickly, if he bullied their children, that his feet would not touch the ground. The School boards in any of these towns would fire him quicker than he could fire off one of his trademark tweets. But Perry does all his bad stuff to Hartford children for the very simple reason that he knows he can get away with it.

The Hartford Board of Education recently voted 5-4 not to give another school to Perry.

Civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker writes here about a battle over the future of two elementary schools in Connecticut.

In both cases, parents resisted efforts to turn their children over to corporate reformers.

She writes:

In recent weeks, parents from two community schools protested proposals by Christina Kishimoto, Hartford’s outgoing “reform” superintendent, and Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor, to hand their schools over to private companies. Neither school community was consulted before the plans were developed.

The initial proposal was to give Hartford’s Clark Elementary school to Achievement First, Inc., the charter school company co-founded by Pryor. Almost 18 percent of Clark’s students have disabilities, and 15.2 percent are English Language Learners. Clark’s school governance council has begged the district, in vain, for additional resources, including teachers, a psychologist, a guidance counselor and basic school repairs such as a functional heating and cooling system.

Only 6.7 percent of Achievement First’s students have special needs, 6.7 percent are English Language Learners. Moreover, Achievement First has the highest rate of suspensions in the state for children under 6 years old, and has been investigated and cited for federal violations in mistreating students with disabilities.

Upon hearing of the proposed Achievement First takeover, Clark’s parents fought back. They openly feared that their special needs children would “not have a place” at an Achievement First school. One parent said “Our teachers work very hard and they love our kids.” Another remarked that when children do not listen, Achievement First suspends them. “Our teachers find a way to keep them in school, find out what is behind their (behavior).” Noting the school was praised by the district in 2013 for its academic progress, a parent declared, “We didn’t ask for our school to be redesigned but only for supports to keep making improvements.”

In the face of the strong opposition from parents, the mayoral-controlled majority of the school board backed down.

In the second instance, the board rejected an effort to turn another elementary school with large numbers of high-need students over to Steve Perry’s new private management company.

The “reformers” are still looking for a way to execute their plans.

Lecker is not sure that the parents will prevail unless they stand together and refuse to permit this hostile takeover of their community school.

 

Valerie Strauss here reports on the travails of Steve Perry in Hartford, Connecticut.

Two bloggers, Jonathan Pelto of Connecticut and Jersey Jazzman of New Jersey, have investigated Perry’s boasts about the magnet school he runs and found that his school serves very small proportions of children who are poor, who have disabilities, and who are English language learners.

Perry is a “reformer” of the “no-excuses” variety. He likes to step on toes. He frequently sends me insulting tweets, but I ignore him. As Jonathan Pelto has documented, Perry has plenty of time for tweeting and for making speeches demeaning teachers and unions.

But what really upset Perry was that his effort to take over another school in Hartford was turned down on a 5-4 vote by the Hartford Board of Education. This led him to tweet:

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

Not a felicitous choice of words.

 

Wendy Lecker is a civil rights attorney and an education activist. In this column in the Stamford Advocate, she argues that the Common Core standards violate the Constitution of the State of Connecticut.

The state constitution clearly states (as most people once understood) that the purpose of public education is to equip young people for citizenship. Yet the Common Core standards ignored this fundamental goal and stressed economic purposes instead.

Lecker writes:

The drafters of the Common Core ignored Connecticut’s primary goal for public education: capable participation in democratic institutions. Sources involved in the Common Core’s development process confirm that citizenship was never the focus. In fact, the Common Core’s foundational document mentions “economy” more than 100 times, while the word “citizen” appears only once — in a footnote.

Ironically, although the sole focus of the Common Core was the ability to compete in the global marketplace, the most serious threat to our national and global economy is our government’s current dysfunction. The recent government shutdown cost the nation $24 billion and 120,000 jobs. The International Monetary Fund warns that if Congress cannot agree to raise the debt ceiling, the world might plunge into another recession.

Given the failure of our democratic institutions, our most urgent goal should be to ensure that our children learn the lessons of democracy. Yet the architects of the Common Core disregarded this fundamental purpose of public education.

Perhaps if the Common Core standards were developed in a democratic fashion in our state, Connecticut’s goals would have been considered.

When Connecticut wrote its own standards, it was an open process that involved teachers, administrators, and the public. By contrast, the Common Core was developed behind closed doors.

There was no public comment. The organizations even refused to release the drafters’ names until there was public outcry. The entire development process remains shrouded in secrecy. NGA and CCSSO are not subject to any sunshine laws that governmental bodies must obey.

The members of Common Core validation committee were required to sign confidentiality agreements. This committee was ostensibly charged with ensuring that these standards that were about to be used in schools across America were valid. It is shocking that the public would be prevented from knowing what this committee discussed.

The finished product was eventually presented to states on a “take it or leave it” basis. States that said “no” were not eligible to compete for $4.35 Billion in federal dollars.

It can hardly be surprising that a document developed without a democratic process pays no attention to the roles and duties of citizens in a democratic society.

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