Archives for category: Connecticut

The Relay “Graduate School of Education” is a hoax, as the article below argues. It is not a graduate school at all. Its location is a post office box. It has no scholars, no researchers, no faculty other than charter teachers. It is a trade school for teaching tricks of test-taking and how to control black and brown children and teach them to obey orders without questioning.

Despite the opposition of legitimate teacher education professionals, the Malloy administration in Connecticut has approved the Relay “Graduate School of Education” to offer faux degrees. This undermines the teaching profession and demeans legitimate degrees and certification.

Before the decision was announced by the Malloy administration, Jonathan Pelto cited a recent article by Professor Lauren Anderson, chair of the Education Department at the prestigious Connecticut College.

Anderson warns the public and state officials not to approve the “Relay Graduate School of Education,” which is a program that trains teachers how to raise test scores and maintain no-excuses discipline. Its Bible is Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion.” Relay is selling itself as an answer to the shortage of well-prepared teachers of color, but its rigid and limited methods do not deliver on that promise, nor do they produce well-prepared teachers of any color.

She wrote that the Relay proposal

is being framed as a solution to minority teacher recruitment and an engine for ameliorating educational inequities. In fact, Relay is no panacea for our pipeline problems, and instead represents the tip of an approaching iceberg that threatens the education of the state’s most under-served students and sells short the very teachers to whom we owe the best preparation, support, working conditions, and compensation available.

WHAT IS RELAY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATION?

First, it is not a graduate school in any recognizable sense. It is a charter-style network of independent teacher preparation programs created by the leaders of three prominent charter school chains (Uncommon Schools, KIPP, and Achievement First), primarily as a means to bypass traditional teacher education. Relay has recently set up shop in New Haven, where it has reportedly enrolled a cohort of candidates who will finish its one-year program this academic year, despite the fact that it has not received approval as a preparation provider.

Its “campus” address is a PO Box; its offices are co-located in a partner charter school; its faculty are unnamed and not required to hold degrees comparable to teacher educators elsewhere; and its nationwide curriculum has been critiqued for emphasizing methods that are reductive and control-oriented, rather than research-based and conducive to critical thinking.

In short, Relay would lower the bar for teacher preparation in Connecticut, increasing the likelihood that students in districts such as Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven would receive teachers who have not met the same standards of preparation as those in more affluent districts.

WHAT IS THE HARM IN APPROVING RELAY?

For candidates in targeted districts, the harm would come from providing a program that doesn’t honor their potential as professionals and would not be deemed acceptable preparation for those certified and employed elsewhere in the state.

For students in targeted districts, the harm would come from providing their teachers with preparation that is based on a reductive, behaviorist view of teaching and learning, and that emphasizes the kind of techniques shown to narrow the curriculum and adversely affect students’ socio-emotional development. For targeted districts and the communities they serve, the harm would come from partnering with a provider that has no credible research base to support its claims to effectiveness or to indicate that it will improve minority teachers’ retention in urban schools. For the public, the harm would come from establishing a pathway into teaching that is not accountable to the profession or state in ways that most other programs are.

To call Relay a “graduate school of education” is an insult to legitimate graduate schools of education. It is a hoax. It has no campus; it has no research; it has no scholars; it has no library. Its methods are behaviorist and limited. It should be sold as a trade school for future charter teachers, not a “graduate school of education.” It undermines the education profession by giving fake credentials to ill-trained “teachers” and sending them to high-needs schools where children deserve well-qualified, well-prepared teachers.

The superintendent of schools in Madison, Connecticut, is Tom Scarice. He is already on the honor roll of this blog because he speaks out for good education, not corporate reform.

In this interview, he is clear about what schools should do.

This is the opening of a wonderful interview:

CTViewpoints: Assuming for a moment that these scores are meaningful, (not everyone thinks so) shouldn’t we be outraged and alarmed that only about half our children are making the grade?

Scarice: Perhaps the biggest problem is that we’re having the wrong conversation, from our current presidential candidates right down through education advocates, bureaucrats, etc.

I believe that chasing test scores is not only fool’s gold, but it will clearly not prepare our kids for the world they will enter when they leave our K-12 schools. In fact, chasing test scores, especially invalid ones like the SBAC, prepares kids for a completely different era, one that vanished decades ago. Automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data will continue to transform the job market, leaving millions without utility, unless they are prepared to take on the jobs that machines cannot perform.

This reality, and the future problems our children will face, necessitates combining rich academic content with the development of deep analytical and critical thinking, and perhaps more importantly, boundless divergent and creative thinking. Students also need authentic experience in developing collective intelligence, learning from and working with others.

No one works alone. Perhaps most importantly, students need to apply their learning to novel situations. There is not one stitch of usefulness in the SBAC with regards to giving us this information — the most important information — on student performance in these essential capacities. In fact, the part of the SBAC intended to measure application of learning was removed. Yet the scores erroneously take center stage in assessing school quality.

There isn’t one piece of reputable research indicating that SBAC measures anything other than maybe family wealth. In fact, CT State Department of Education literature, referred to as the SBAC “Interpretive Guide,” states that, “characterizing a student’s achievement solely in terms of falling in one of four categories is an oversimplification.” Essentially, the “box score” of test scores that gets published every August lacks meaning and usefulness, but, most importantly, it lacks validity.

Yet, million dollar decisions are made based on those scores, and educators around the state sadly get wrapped around the “test score axle,” compelled to chase higher scores, trapped in a flawed system.

However, there is one thing that the SBAC “box scores” do provide, something that the public has an insatiable appetite for, and that is misleading rankings, sorting, charts, winners/losers, top ten lists, etc.

What we should be outraged and alarmed about is the fact that states are participating in this testing consortium, voluntarily and willingly, spending millions of dollars for meaningless tests, the results of which are purported to gauge student learning and – stunningly – misused to assess teacher competence and school quality, which this test, or any test, simply cannot do.

The misuse of test scores has stained a generation of public education by conflating our goals with our measures and distorting the teaching and learning of millions of children.

Connecticut Governor Dannell Malloy is a leader of the Democratic Party who paints himself as a progressive. But those who have followed his education policy know that he is a big fan of privatization, which is reactionary, not progressive. Malloy has appointed charter advocates as state commissioners of education and members of the state board of education. His funding has given preference to his favorite charter chains, connected to hedge fund managers, even as he meagerly funds high-needs districts with concentrated poverty. He seems to think that the best way to raise the test scores of poor kids is to open charters for a few of them.

So it should come as no surprise that Governor Malloy now bills himself as a fiscal conservative. His budget cuts weigh heavily on the neediest. A progressive he is not.

“During Connecticut’s 2016 budget session, Governor Dannel Malloy waived off calls for the third tax increase in six years and doubled down on austerity. The governor proposed $569 million in cuts and layoffs for over 2,500 public sector workers.

“Malloy is a Democrat and it wasn’t so long ago that he was viewed as a fairly progressive one. He raised the state’s minimum wage, increased taxes for its wealthiest residents and acted quickly on gun control after the Sandy Hook massacre. Predictably, Malloy’s reputation with liberals faltered after his new economic plan was revealed. Jan Hochadel, president of the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, told the Atlantic that, “We feel very differently now about Governor Malloy than we did a few years ago.” She compared him to “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and declared that he had “turned his back on the 99 percent.”

“Connecticut’s Department of Developmental Services, an agency that serves over 16,560 individuals with intellectual disabilities, was presumably unsurprised by Malloy’s cuts. The administration cut its budget by $30 million in 2012, $5.5 million in 2014 and $8.4 million last year. There’s a $17 million reduction for DDS this year and a requirement that its leaders find ways to cut millions more. However, the governor’s office says it has a plan to save even more: it wants to privatize a number of the state’s group homes….

“The Office of Program Review and Investigations is not the only group that has conducted an investigation. In 2013, Senator Chris Murphy sent a letter to the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services Monday, requesting an investigation that would focus on preventable deaths at privately run group homes. In his letter, Murphy cited a Courant report on the facilities: The paper’s series revealed that state investigators had cited neglect in the deaths of 76 adults with developmental disabilities who were receiving services from the state. One incident involved a resident being placed in a bathtub of scalding water and several choked to death despite swallowing protocols.

“Privatization of care may mean lower costs but without the proper oversight and requirements for well-trained staff,” wrote Murphy, “While individuals with developmental disabilities may not be able to speak for themselves, we are not absolved of the responsibility to care for them in a humane and fair manner.”

“Murphy eventually got a federal probe and the investigation’s findings were released this year. They backed up the Courant’s reporting and provided even more harrowing details. The audit, which examined Connecticut’s treatment of 245 developmentally disabled people from 2012 through the first half of 2014, discovered that many private group homes failed to report “critical incidents” to state officials and almost never forwarded such incidents to outside investigators.

“The results of this investigation are worse than I could have imagined,” admitted Murphy, “and clearly the oversight agencies have failed in their responsibility to prevent and investigate incidents of abuse. The state needs to take action as quickly as possible to address the issues raised in this disturbing report.”

“Advocates say such a scandal can be attributed to the massive DDS cuts: nearly $100 million has been cut from its $1 billion budget over the last four years and a large private worker turnover rate. They also say that the state is not prepared to transfer the remaining individuals who live in public facilities to private ones and that the move will overwhelm the private sector, which has also been underfunded by the state.”

Wendy Lecker, civil rights attorney, explains here how disappointing the recent Connecticut funding decision is.

“As noted in my previous column, CCJEF trial judge Thomas Moukawsher refused to order the state to ensure adequate resources in schools, though determining constitutional adequacy was his responsibility. By contrast, the judge freely issued sweeping directives regarding educational policy.

“The judge issued far-reaching orders involving elementary and high school education and teacher evaluations. He also aired abhorrent views toward children with disabilities, which several commentators already addressed.

“This column addresses his orders regarding elementary education. I will address the others in subsequent columns.
Moukawsher observed that the educational disparities in secondary school begin in elementary school. (He actually acknowledged that they begin before elementary school, but declined to rule that preschool is essential.)

Moukawsher’s “fix” for elementary school was to order the state to define elementary education as being “primarily related to developing basic literacy and numeracy skills needed for secondary school.”

“Most of us understand that to thrive in secondary school, children must develop skills beyond basic numeracy and literacy. From an early age, children must develop the ability to think critically, creatively and independently.
There is no real division among brain functions — cognitive, social and motor — so they all must be developed in concert. As neuroscientist Adele Diamond observed, “a human being is not just an intellect or just a body … we ignore any of those dimensions at our peril in … educating children.”

“However, Moukawsher ruled that elementary school should concern itself with basic literacy and numeracy skills. Moreover, he demanded that this definition have “force,” “substantial consequences” and be “verifiable” — code for high-stakes statewide standardized elementary school exit exams.

“The judge’s myopic focus was emphasized by his suggestion for giving the required definition “force.” He declared that the state definition “might gain some heft, for example, if the rest of school stopped for students who leave third grade without basic literacy skills. School for them might be focused solely on acquiring those skills. Eighth-grade testing would have to show they have acquired those skills before they move on to secondary school. This would give the schools four school years to fix the problem for most children.”

Many children who do not score well on standardized tests are poor and experience stress in their lives that inhibits learning. Others are just learning English. Others have disabilities. Any lag in reading does not mean a child cannot think at grade level or beyond. Moreover, many low-income children have limited exposure to the wide variety of experiences their more affluent peers enjoy. Yet Moukawsher’s prescription for “fixing” them is to limit their education to reading instruction. No art, music, physical education, social studies, science, drama, or field trips. This “solution” will leave our neediest children further behind developmentally.

Moukawsher’s proposal not only threatens to hinder development for our neediest children. It is not even an effective way to teach reading.”

Read the rest of her analysis. This is the same decision that the New York Times treated as historic. Apparently, no one at the Times actually read the decision.

A recent court decision in Connecticut, which ruled that the state’s property-tax based system of funding was inequitable and unconstitutional. The decision was hailed by the New York Times and others as a wonderful breakthrough for a “broken” school system. In some respect, that claim was right: a property-tax system is inherently inequitable, assuring that affluent districts are far better funded than poor ones.

But as Jonathan Pelto was first to point out, the decision contains a shocking dismissal of the rights of children with disabilities. Buried in the opinion is the judge’s belief that too much money is spent on such children.

The judge wrote:

““Yet school officials never consider the possibility that the education appropriate for some students may be extremely limited because they are too profoundly disabled to get any benefit from an elementary or secondary school education….It is about whether schools can decide in an education plan for a covered child that the child has a minimal or no chance for education, and therefore the school should not make expensive, extensive, and ultimately proforma efforts.”

In this article in the HECHINGER Report, it is clear that the Connecticut decision threatens millions of children with special needs and challenges federal law.

Why the school funding judgment in Connecticut could jeopardize education for America’s 6.5 million children with disabilities

Jonathan Pelto has been a stalwart and fearless investigator and reporter of corporate reform scams in Connecticut and elsewhere.

He is running for Congress on the Green Party ticket.

He needs and deserves our help. If everyone who reads this sends him $25, he would have a nifty fund. If you can pledge more, blessings on you!

Diane

Jan Resseger writes that the New York Times has done a great disservice to the public by its incoherent reporting on the recent court decision in Connecticut.

https://janresseger.wordpress.com/2016/09/15/ny-times-muddles-education-debate/

In its “Room for Debate” feature, the Times continued its practice of citing people who had not read the decision and just repeated their talking points. This does not inform the public.

The Times has decided that this decision has national implications. It does but some of them are muddled. The judge says the legislature should fix the funding formula because the property tax-base of funding disadvantages poor children. He goes on to say that the teacher evaluation system is broken and teachers should be judged by student performance, which reveals his ignorance of the flaws and repeated failures of this method. He says that money spent on profoundly disabled children is wasted, which ignores federal law.

Let’s hope the New York Times soon finds the education editor it has advertised for, and that the editor is deeply knowledgable about research and the learned experience of the past 15 years of failed federal policies.

Last week, a judge in Connecticut overturned the property-tax based system of funding and correctly noted that this system produces and reproduces inequity for the state’s neediest children.

Those who have read the decision saluted this finding but see errors in the judge’s statements about education policy.

Jan Resseger expresses her concerns about the decision here.

She explains that the New York Times’ front-page analysis was “wishful and foolishly simplistic.”

She quotes Wendy Lecker and Molly Hunter of the Education Law Center:

“At least Judge Moukawsher did declare the current system unconstitutional. Molly Hunter, in an analysis for the Education Law Center, explains: “Separately, the court dismissed the State’s claim that local school districts bore the responsibility for education, not the state. The court quoted Connecticut Supreme Court holdings: ‘Obviously, the furnishing of education for the general public is a state function and duty,’ and ‘…in Connecticut, education is a fundamental right,’ raising education to the most important level known to law.”

“Hunter identifies several additional serious problems in Judge Moukawsher’s decision: “If there was any one thing in the trial that stood out as good…. Witnesses for both sides agreed that high-quality preschool would be the best weapon to get ahead of the literacy and numeracy problems plaguing schools in impoverished cities. But, the court failed to order it.”

“Hunter continues: “In striking contrast, the court took deep dives into education policy regarding teacher evaluations and students with disabilities. The court ordered policy changes for teachers and other educators that are controversial and have been proven ineffective, even harmful… ”

“And finally, Hunter derides the decision’s impact on special education: “Also, many will find the court’s extensive discussion of students with disabilities and funding for their services troubling. The court indicated that funding for students with severe or multiple disabilities was irrational and not connected to ‘education’ if they were not capable of receiving an elementary and secondary education.”

Wendy Lecker, a veteran civil rights attorney, here analyzes the Connecticut funding decision that was lavishly (and erroneously) praised by the New York Times. Lecker explains why in this and forthcoming articles.


On Sept. 7, Judge Thomas Moukawsher issued his post-trial decision in Connecticut’s school funding case, CCJEF v. Rell. His sweeping decision covered funding, which I will address here, and education policy, which I will address in my next column.

On the funding front, the outcome was mixed. While the judge did declare Connecticut’s system of distributing school aid unconstitutional, he found that the state was providing adequate funding. In doing so, he redefined constitutional adequacy and ignored the plaintiffs’ overwhelming evidence of resource deficiencies in the CCJEF districts.

At trial, the CCJEF plaintiffs put forth overwhelming evidence of severe resource deficiencies of inputs such as: academic and social intervention for at-risk students and students with special needs; guidance counselors, social workers, nurses, services for English Language Learners, music art and other subjects; and reasonable class size.

Judge Moukawsher’s charge was to examine the resources in the districts at issue in the case and determine whether those resources were so inadequate as to violate Connecticut’s constitution.

However, nowhere in the opinion does the judge systematically look the actual resources present or absent in each district.

Rather, the judge focused only on three types of resources: facilities, instrumentalities of learning, and teachers. He declared that since, in his view, the state provides the “bare minimum,” in these three areas, the plaintiffs did not prove that state funding is constitutionally inadequate.

Moukawsher claimed to base his ruling on the 2010 Connecticut Supreme Court plurality decision allowing the CCJEF case to proceed to trial. He claimed to rely specifically on Justice Richard Palmer’s concurring opinion, which is seen as the controlling opinion.

Moukawsher stated that Palmer limited his focus to those three narrow resources. This is untrue. Palmer acknowledged a much wider range of potential resource deficits, including class size, language instruction, technology, intervention for at-risk students, and a safe and secure learning environment.

Judge Moukawsher’s decision ignored the wide range of essential educational resources absent in the CCJEF districts. In fact, the judge actually claimed that intervention for at-risk children was an “extra.”

As a result, his ruling does an injustice to the children suffering in those districts.

Moukawsher also attempted to claim Palmer’s definition of a “minimally adequate” education was narrower than the plurality opinion, and that it required only the “bare minimum” of resources.

However, Palmer actually declared that “I perceive no difference between an educational opportunity that is minimally adequate and an educational opportunity that the plurality characterizes as ‘soundly basic.’”

Moukawsher created a bare-bones definition of constitutional adequacy that the Connecticut Supreme Court clearly did not envision.

The one ray of light in this funding decision is Moukawsher’s finding that the state’s system for distributing school aid is unconstitutional. He ruled that “(b)eyond a reasonable doubt, Connecticut is defaulting on its constitutional duty to provide adequate public school opportunities because it has no rational, substantial and verifiable plan to distribute money for education aid and school construction.”

To illustrate Connecticut’s irrational system, Moukawsher cited the legislature’s decision last session to cut school aid for poor districts while providing more aid for wealthy districts. Here, the judge finally acknowledged the severe resource deficits caused by these cuts: of administrators, guidance counselors, kindergarten and special education paraprofessionals, music and athletics, a shortened school year and classes of “29 children per room — rooms where teachers might have a class with one third requiring special education, many of them speaking limited English, and almost all of them working considerably below grade level.”

The judge declared that a system that “allows rich towns to raid money desperately needed by poor towns makes a mockery of the state’s constitutional duty.”

Jonathan Pelto read the Connecticut judge’s funding decision, which many people were thrilled to see, and discovered that the judge harbors unbelievably negative views about spending money on children with profound disabilities. Pelto says that the judge’s views would set back special education by 40 years.

While the decision is an important milestone on the school funding issue, Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s Memorandum of Decision is nothing short of absurd, ill-conceived and simply wrong when it comes to Connecticut’s special education programs, the state’s illogical teacher evaluation system and the state’s over-reliance on the unfair, inappropriate and discriminatory Common Core SBAC and SAT testing schemes.

In his ruling, Moukawsher actually suggests that students should face even more standardized testing in Connecticut’s classrooms.

And of greatest concern is his unwarranted, outrageous and mean-spirited attack on special education services in Connecticut’s schools.

The truth is that Connecticut has actually been a leader when it comes to providing special education services to those who need extra help in the classroom. While issues certainly exist when it comes to adequately identifying and providing services to those students who have special needs, the underlying problem is not that students get special education services, but that Connecticut’s cities and towns are left with an unfair share of the burden when it comes to financing those extra educational activities.

In Connecticut, there has been widespread consensus that society and the state have an obligation to ensure that every child is provided with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to live more fulfilling lives and that includes children with special needs.

Yet in an stunning diatribe, Judge Moukawsher appears to suggest that Connecticut retreat from that commitment.