Archives for category: Connecticut

There will never be justice for the families who lost loved ones at the Sandy Hook (Ct) massacre.

But Alex Jones will pay for his lies, his claims that the massacre of children and educators was a hoax staged by “crisis actors” to build support for gun control.

A jury in Texas awarded one set of parents $45 in punitive damages in addition to $4 million in compensatory damages for the pain and anguished he inflicted on the survivors.

This is the first trial. There are more to come.

Others will have to explain why Jones shamelessly exploited the suffering of Sandy Hook families. If it was greed, then it is just that he lose his ill-gotten gains.

What a vile, evil man.

Have you lost faith in our elected officials? Let me introduce you to my personal hero. Rosa DeLauro. I have met with her several times, and she was always attentive and thoughtful. I love her values, and I love her too. It’s a very small tribute to this great woman, but I take this opportunity to add her to the blog’s honor roll for standing up forcefully to the bullying of the charter lobby.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is one of the most powerful members of Congress. She is a Democrat from Connecticut. She is an outstanding liberal who fights for children and working people.

Please read her bio.

Rosa DeLauro is the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District, which stretches from the Long Island Sound and New Haven, to the Naugatuck Valley and Waterbury. Rosa serves as the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and sits on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and she is the Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, where she oversees our nation’s investments in education, health, and employment.

At the core of Rosa’s work is her fight for America’s working families. Rosa believes that we must raise the nation’s minimum wage, give all employees access to paid sick days, allow employees to take paid family and medical leave, and ensure equal pay for equal work. Every day, Rosa fights for legislation that would give all working families an opportunity to succeed.

Rosa believes that our first priority must be to strengthen the economy and create good middle class jobs. She supports tax cuts for working and middle class families, fought to expand the Child Tax Credit to provide tax relief to millions of families, and introduced the Young Child Tax Credit to give families with young children an economic lift.

Rosa has also fought to stop trade agreements that lower wages and ships jobs overseas, while also protecting the rights of employees and unions. She believes that we need to grow our economy by making smart innovative investments in our infrastructure, which is why she introduced legislation to create a National Infrastructure bank.

Rosa is a leader in fighting to improve and expand federal support for child nutrition and for modernizing our food safety system. She believes that the U.S. should have one agency assigned the responsibility for food safety, rather than the 15 different agencies that lay claim to different parts of our food system. Rosa fights against special interests, like tobacco and e-cigarettes, which seek to skirt our public health and safety rules.

As the Chair dealing with appropriations for Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education, Rosa is determined to increase support for education and make college more affordable for more American students and their families. She is also fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act so that all Americans have access to affordable care. Rosa strongly believes in the power of biomedical research and she is working to increase funding so that we can make lifesaving breakthroughs in science and medicine.

Rosa believes that we have a moral obligation to our nation’s veterans and their families, and her concern for these heroes extends to both their physical and mental well-being. Rosa supports a transformation in how the Department of Veterans Affairs is funded, including advanced appropriations for health services, to ensure its fiscal soundness; and she successfully championed legislation to guarantee that troops deploying to combat theaters get the mental health screening they need both before and after deployment, as well as championed legislation that now provides assistance to today’s Post-9/11 veterans choosing to pursue on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.

Rosa belongs to 62 House caucus groups and is the co-chair of the Baby Caucus, the Long Island Sound Caucus, and the Food Safety Caucus.

Soon after earning degrees from Marymount College and Columbia University, Rosa followed her parents’ footsteps into public service, serving as the first Executive Director of EMILY’s List, a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected office; Executive Director of Countdown ’87, the national campaign that successfully stopped U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras; and as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd. In 1990, Rosa was elected to the House of Representatives, and she has served as the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District ever since.

Rosa is married to Stanley Greenberg. Their children—Anna, Kathryn, and Jonathan Greenberg—all are grown and pursuing careers. Rosa and Stan have six grandchildren, Rigby, Teo, Sadie, Jasper, Paola and Gus.

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Biography

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Official Photo

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and I in 2018: My hero.

After the massacre of children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2014, there seemed to be an unstoppable public demand for federal gun control legislation. After the massacre of high school students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Davis High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the demand for gun control seemed unstoppable, led by students from the school.

Nothing happened. Now American students and teachers learn to protect themselves in “active shooter” drills. The opponents of gun control count on potential victims to protect themselves, instead of enacting restrictions on gun owners to protect children.

The same politicians who fight for the rights of gun owners are busily banning books, which they consider dangerous. Book banning is cancel culture at its worst.

Nine years ago, a deranged gunman blasted his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. He murdered 20 children and six educators, including the principal, Dawn Hochsprung. The children were all 6- and 7-year-olds. Teachers shielded their children as best they could, and some died while protecting the children.

Many thought this slaughter of babies and educators would compel Congress to enact meaningful gun control. It didn’t. It even inspired a ruthless radio host to claim that the massacre never happened. Many grieving parents received death threats, due to the radio host’s lies. A court has held him liable for his cruel campaign. Meanwhile the murders continue, and Congress does nothing.

I received this message from Sandy Hook Promise, which continues to advocate for gun control:

Nine years ago today, our children and loved ones were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary.

There are no words to describe how deeply we miss them, or how agonizing it is to mark another year since the last hug, smile or laugh we shared with them.

It’d bring such comfort to know you’re standing with us today. Will you sign our remembrance card to honor the precious lives taken from us? http://lil.ms/cydj/8zthf9

-Sandy Hook Promise

Since December 14 also is the date on which my beloved two-year-old died of leukemia many, many years ago, I grieve with and for with the parents of Sandy Hook, and with all families who have lost a child. You never forget.

Sandy Hook parents won a defamation lawsuit against rightwing media figure Alex Jones. Their children were murdered on December 14, 2012, in a massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A total of 20 children between the ages of six and seven were killed, along with six staff members, including the principal.

For years, Alex Jones has asserted that the massacre was staged and that the film footage showed child actors. His repeated slanders were deeply hurtful to the families who lost children and adult relations.

The parents of two first-graders slain in the Sandy Hook massacre have won a defamation lawsuit in Texas against conspiracy extremist and Infowars host Alex Jones.

Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse Lewis, and Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, the parents of Noah Pozner, will have their cases heard by a jury to determine damages…

The parents, who each sued Jones for more than $1 million for claiming, among other things, that the 2012 slaying of 26 first-graders and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School was “staged,” “synthetic,” “manufactured,” “a giant hoax” and “completely fake with actors,” had been battling with Jones in Travis County District Court for pretrial documents he had been ordered to turn over to them.

Ann P. Cronin is a former Connecticut Distinguished English Teacher of the Year, a school district administrator, and creator of award-winning programs for the teaching of English in middle schools and high schools. At her blog, she asks about Miguel Cardona’s vision for the future.

She writes:

When I ask Connecticut teachers about Miguel Cardona, those who know him or have worked with him say that he is really nice guy who knows what the challenges in our classrooms are, knows how to help teachers to improve their teaching, and respects public schools. All good.

The majority of Connecticut teachers who don’t know him personally say that he has been largely quiet as Commissioner and are critical that he seems more interested in keeping schools open than in caring about public health, including the welfare of teachers, students and students’ families during the pandemic. 

But what is his vision for teaching and learning that he will bring to the U.S. Department of Education? When appointed Commissioner of Education in Connecticut 19 months ago, he stated that his goals would be to:

  1. Make a positive impact on graduation rates.
  2. Close the achievement gap.
  3. Ensure that all students have increased access to opportunities and advantages that they need to succeed in life.

It is reasonable to assume that the goals he had for Connecticut 19 months ago will be goals that he will now bring to the country. Those goals, however, are “old hat” and don’t have a record of being successfully accomplished.

The goals themselves are worthy ones, but they need a new interpretation which would give rise to a dramatically new vision and radical new actions. The questions are: What would that new vision and new actions look like? And is Dr. Cardona open to that vision and those actions?

Cronin points out that it easy to “raise the graduation rate,” as many districts now do, by offering “credit retrieval” or “credit recovery” courses, a quick computer course that involves minimal learning but provides credits. The goal ought to be, she says, not raising the graduation rate but something like the graduating of well-educated high school students. Currently, graduation rates make good headlines but can mean very little in terms of student learning.

Charter schools have mastered the trick of raising graduation rates by pushing out students who are unlikely to graduate on time.

She asks for something more: a genuine vision that involves improving the quality of education, not improving the data.

How refreshing!

Ann Cronin, retired teacher in Connecticut, posted a letter on her blog written by another Connecticut teacher and addressed to Secretary of Education-Designate Miguel Cardona:

Jeannette C. Faber writes to tell Dr. Cardona that it is time to end standardized testing, now!

Dear Commissioner Cardona:

Connecticut is proud that you, our Commissioner of Education, was chosen as the Biden/Harris administration’s Secretary of Education. 

Educators support your dedication to: increasing graduation rates, closing the achievement gap, and ensuring equity for all students. All educators should be committed to making these goals a reality. America’s children need and deserve this. 

However, educators also know that the regime of profit-driven standardized testing will not improve teaching and learning. They never have.

  • If educators are forced to teach to a test in order to increase graduation rates, students are merely learning how to take a test. This is antithetical to what 21st-century learning should look like: problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, project-based learning, capstone projects, creativity, and more. 
  • If schools are pressured to close the achievement gap, but their only tools are computer programs that hold students hostage to rote “learning”, then students are not experiencing rich and meaningful learning. Only 21st-century learning experiences will increase graduation rates that are credible and that actually prepare students for a growingly complex world.
  • If equity means giving students in impoverished areas less rich and meaningful learning, by continuing the standardized testing regime, the equity gap will only increase. What students in impoverished areas need is much more of what students in more affluent areas already have. Connecticut’s discriminatory per-pupil expenditure disparity tells the whole, sad story. 

Dr. Cardona, what holds schools back from making meaningful progress are ill-conceived federal mandates. These mandates have never improved the quality of teaching and learning. They never will. Test scores may have increased. As well as graduation rates. However, those are meaningless if they are not products of rich and meaningful teaching and learning. 

No standardized test can measure 21st-century skills. Hence, standardized tests cannot cultivate the acquisition of those skills.

We ask you, Dr. Cardona, to recommit yourself to the vital goals you have set by shifting the paradigm. Shift how we achieve those goals. That requires ending the testing regime started with George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind (2002 – 2015) and continued with Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” (2012 – 2016).

We, Dr. Cardona, are asking Connecticut’s teachers, parents, and students to send a strong message to you by refusing the standardized testing planned for this spring.  

We are also asking all who oppose the standardized-testing regime to sign this petition, which will be delivered to you, Dr. Cardona.

We are all trying to survive a global pandemic. In my 25 years in the classroom, I have never seen my students so stressed, depressed, and anxious. It is unnecessary and insensitive to add to the weight of their mental health struggles by adding the stress of standardized testing. Also, when thousands of stressed, depressed, and anxious students are forced to take a standardized test, will the results be accurate? Were they ever really accurate? Able to capture what students know and can do? Teachers know the answer: No!

Now is the time to end standardized testing

#RefuseTheTest 

#DoNotTakeTestingToDC. 

A faithful teacher,

Jeannette C. Faber – MS, MALS, EdD

The Connecticut Mirror wrote a revealing in-depth analysis of Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona’s life, career, and education ideas.

His meteoric rise has been well documented. He grew up in poverty. He started public school in Meriden, Connecticut, not speaking English. He saw education as his route to a better life.

He became a teacher, then a principal, then assistant superintendent of the Meriden district of 8,000 students. From there, he was tapped to become State Commissioner of Schools.

From the outside, the Meriden Public Schools system looks like a network of struggling city schools.

The state has designated it an Alliance District and one of the “lowest-performing districts” since more than one-quarter of the students are multiple grades behind in English, math and science. It is also an economically isolated district that spends 30% less per student than the state average despite three-quarters of its students coming from low-income families. And the school ratings often used in real estate listings don’t look favorably on the district, either.

This is where Miguel Cardona — President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to become the next U.S. education secretary — grew up and spent 21 years of his 23-year career as an educator. And his experiences there — his battles and the district’s successes — will likely be front-of-mind as he coordinates policy for all the public schools in the country.

Cardona has never put much weight into titles, and he has grown used to defying low expectations set upon him and his students.

In Meriden, it meant broadening opportunity by opening access to advanced-level courses to drastically more students, embracing the Common Core standards and the accompanying tests that raised the bar for where students should be academically, providing emotional support and interventions for students acting out rather than suspending them, and setting up programs to help more high school graduates navigate to college.

Cardona also took the lead in Meriden to fine-tune controversial education reforms aimed at teacher accountability that were being pushed onto his district by state and federal officials into a model that the local union eventually supported.

Meriden’s results are ahead of most districts’ throughout the state on arguably the most important benchmark — the share of students who meet their growth targets and are on track to catch up or stay ahead.

Statewide, 33% of students from low-income families were on track to catch up in English Language Arts, compared to 39% of the poor students in Meriden by the end of the 2018-19 school year, the last year Cardona was the district’s assistant superintendent before becoming state education commissioner. In math, 37% of poor students in Meriden were on track, compared to 34% statewide. The growth of Meriden students also jumps out compared to the state’s 32 other “low-performing” Alliance Districts.

The share of Meriden students from low-income households reaching their growth targets has outpaced state averages nearly every year since 2014-15, when the state first started measuring whether students were on track to catch up.

The leader of Biden’s education transition team, Linda Darling-Hammond, served on a panel with Cardona when he was an assistant superintendent and was very impressed. That meeting was probably the key to his remarkable ascension.

This article provides insight into the educator who will lead the U.S. Depatnentbof Education in the Biden administration.

Not many people outside Connecticut are familiar with President-Elect Biden’s choice for Secretary of Education. He went to public schools. He has worked in public schools his entire career. His children go to public schools in Meriden, where he lives. He is not aligned with DFER or Chiefs for Change or any billionaire-funded “reform” group.

Politico points out two stances that Dr. Cardona has taken that will concern many parents and teachers. In his own state, he has pushed to resume annual testing this spring, despite the pandemic. Also, he has prioritized reopening schools, which will please some but anger others.

For those of us who question the value of annual testing, a policy not found in any high-performing nation, the resumption of high-stakes testing will be a mistake when so many children have had unequal opportunity to learn. DeVos offered blanket waivers in the spring of 2020 but said she would not do it again in 2021. Students and teachers should not be required to take tests that are sure to demonstrate what we already know: Students in affluent districts will get higher test scores than students who are in impoverished districts. The gaps between them will be larger do to unequal access to education during the pandemic. There! I just told you what we will learn if we give tens or hundreds of millions to the testing industry in March.

Decisions about reopening schools should be made by local officials, not the federal Department of Education. Such decisions should take into account the availability of resources and the local conditions. We are in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic. Conditions vary, and so should responses.

President-Elect Joe Biden selected Dr. Miguel Cardona, Commissioner of Education in Connecticut, to be his administration’s Secretary of Education.

The Washington Post wrote about him:

President-elect Joe Biden is set to nominate the commissioner of public schools in Connecticut as his education secretary, settling on a low-profile candidate who has pushed to reopen schools and is not aligned with either side in education policy battles of recent years, two people familiar with the matter said Monday.

Miguel Cardona was named Connecticut’s top schools official last year and if confirmed will have achieved a meteoric rise, moving from an assistant superintendent in Meriden, Conn., a district with 9,000 students, to secretary of education in less than two years.

He was born in Meriden to Puerto Rican parents who lived in public housing. He began his career as a fourth-grade teacher and rocketed up the ranks, becoming the state’s youngest principal at age 28. He was named the state’s principal of the year in 2012...

A finalist for the job was Leslie Fenwick, former dean of the Howard University School of Education and a fierce critic of education policies such as test-based accountability for schools and teachers who have been popular with centrists in both political parties.

Cardona represented a safer selection. He does not appear to have been a combatant in those education wars, though he did challenge teachers unions as he worked to reopen schools this fall.

Democrats who support accountability-type education changes, concerned that Fenwick would get the job, lobbied for Cardona, and although he is not a leader from their faction, his selection marks a win for them. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also endorsed him in recent days.

So this much is clear. Biden rejected the progressive candidate, Dr. Leslie T. Fenwick. However, Dr. Cardona is not a Broadie, not a DFER favorite, not a member of Jeb Bush’s “Chiefs for Change.” All of this is good news. We know that these fake “reformers” lobbied hard for one of their own. They lost. That’s good news too.

Dr. Cardona has not taken a position on the major issues that define the major education policy battles of the past two decades. He has been critical of excessive testing, but does not oppose the use of standardized testing on principle. He has been critical of test-based evaluation of teachers (a major element of Race to the Top), because he knows that it doesn’t work. He is neither for nor against charter schools, even though Connecticut experienced some of the worst charter scandals in the nation (think the Jumoke charter chain), is the home base of the Sackler-funded ConnCAN (which morphed into 50CAN, to spread the privatization movement nationally), and is the home base of Achievement First, one of the premier no-excuses charter chain, known in the past for harsh discipline (three in the AF chain are currently on probation, despite their high test scores). The fact that three of the politically powerful AF no-excuses charters are on probation is a hopeful sign that he intends to hold charters to the same standards as public schools.

Having read his Twitter feed (@teachcardona), I get the impression that he is a very decent and concerned administrator who cheers on students and teachers. He has not weighed in on political issues that roil the education policy world.

I am still hoping for a Secretary who recognizes that the past twenty years have been a nightmare for American public schools, their students, and their teachers. I am still hoping for someone who will publicly admit that federal education policy has been a disaster since No Child Left Behind and its kissing-cousin Race to the Top, modified slightly by the “Every Student Succeeds Act.” Maybe Dr. Cardona will be that person. We will see.

I believe that the federal government has exceeded its competence for twenty years and has dramatically overreached by trying to tell schools how to reform themselves when there is hardly a soul in Washington, D.C., who knows how to reform schools. Our nearly 100,000 public schools are still choking on the toxic fumes of No Child Left Behind, a law that was built on the hoax of the Texas “miracle.” We now know that there was no Texas miracle, but federal and state policymakers still proceed mindlessly on the same simple-minded track that was set into law in 2001.

Perhaps Dr. Cardona will introduce a note of humility into federal policy. If so, he will have to push hard to lift the heavy hand of the federal government. Twenty years of Bush-Obama-Trump policies have squeezed the joy out of education. Many schools have concentrated on testing and test-prepping while eliminating recess and extinguishing the arts. As an experienced educator, Dr. Cardona knows this. He will be in a position to set a new course.

If he does, he will push back against the mandated annual testing regime that is not known in any nation with high-performing schools.

If he intends to set a new course, he will grant waivers to every state to suspend the federal tests in 2021.

If he intends to set a new course, he will ask Congress to defund the $440 million federal Charter Schools Program, which is not needed and has proved effective only in spreading corporate charter chains where they are not wanted. Two NPE studies (here and here), based on federal data, showed that nearly 40% of the charters funded by the federal CSP either never opened or closed soon after opening. More than $1 billion in federal funds was wasted on failed charters. Let the billionaires pay for them, not taxpayers, whose first obligation is to provide adequate funding for public schools.

Further, if he wants genuine reform, he will begin the process of writing a new federal law to replace the Every Student Succeeds Act and dramatically reduce the burdens imposed by clueless politicians on our nation’s schools.

Dr. Cardona is known for his efforts to reopen the schools during the pandemic. He knows that this can’t happen without the resources to reopen safely. The pandemic is surging again. It is not over. He knows this, and he will have to move with caution not to put the lives of staff or students at risk.

I will not judge him until I see how he handles not only the present dire moment, but the legacy of twenty years of failed federal policy. I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Hope springs eternal. We can’t live without it.