School Reform Goals Set

Half of New Haven Public School grads enroll in a second year of college within two years of finishing 12th grade. The district wants to boost that number to 75 percent.

That was one of three goals approved Monday night by the New Haven Board of Education as it enters the first year of a five-year school reform drive.

The goals for college success, dropouts, and student test scores were approved by a unanimous 8-0 vote after a presentation by school reform czar Garth Harries and schools data-cruncher Katya Levitan-Reiner. Click here to read their PowerPoint.

Until the reform drive launched about 18 months ago, the city didn’t track how well its graduates performed in college. As part of the reform effort, it hired National Student Clearinghouse to crunch some numbers. Initial numbers show that of the class of 2007-08, only 50 percent enrolled in a second year of college within two years of graduating from high school. The district set a goal to boost that number to 55 percent for current high school seniors, then five percent each year for each subsequent class.

That means for the current eighth-grade class, 75 percent of graduates would be expected to enroll in a second year of college within two years of their graduation in 2015.

The data isn’t perfect: It captures only about 85 percent of New Haven Public School (NHPS) graduates, because it tracks only those students who are legal residents with social security numbers.

According to the data, only 65 percent of NHPS grads enroll in college after graduation. The district set a goal to boost that number to 85 percent in the next five years.

What about students who never graduate from high school? Those who drop out aren’t counted in the college success goal. The district does have a goal for them, however.

New Haven’s Class of 2008 had a dropout rate of 27.4 percent—not 15.7 percent, as previously reported using a different calculation—school officials revealed in September. The district aims to cut dropout rate to 13.5 percent in the next five years. The goal was one of the three officially approved Monday.

The third goal is to close the achievement gap on standardized tests between New Haven kids and the state average on standardized tests. On Monday, the district laid out how much it will need to improve each year to meet that goal.

The plan calls for boosting student test scores by an average of 3.4 percent on Connecticut Mastery Tests and Connecticut Academic Performance Tests this year. For the next nine years, the district aims to boost scores by as much as 6.6 percent, for a total of 40 percent by 2018-19.

Reform czar Harries said these numbers will serve as clear goals that the public can use to assess the reform drive. Beneath the broad goals, the district will also look at scores in much more detail, by grade and subject, as well as school by school.

After the presentation, teachers union Vice President David Low pressed for more innovative solutions.

He said while the relationship between teachers and administration is “profoundly” improved, the school system needs more dramatic change to boost student achievement. The current model was “built to sort the top fifth of students” and prepare them for college. “The system isn’t built for all.”

Low said reforms like the new teacher evaluation system are premised on the arguments of the film “Waiting For Superman”: that “we just need to put the right people” into school systems and students will learn more. Continuing the current model, but asking teachers to perform better, “will get us only incremental gains,” not the “profound change” that school officials are seeking, he predicted.

Echoing the warnings of education reformer Diane Ravitch, Low cautioned against a school reform effort that is too focused on accountability. Teachers are likely to become so focused on test scores that they lose sight of more innovative solutions to getting kids to learn, he argued. He asked the board to “open up a space for innovation to occur,” including out-of-the-box solutions that don’t bring instant improvement on test scores, but may have more lasting long-term impact.

Board member Ferdinand Risco urged Low to give the reform drive a chance. There are no statistics yet showing the reform ideas have failed, he noted.

Schools Superintendent Reggie Mayo added that with the teacher evaluation system, teachers will have the classroom feedback and support that they have said was lacking. He said the district is off to a good start on the reforms, and “we’re still looking for good ideas.”

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posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 10, 2010  6:27pm

What a surprise, the union rep arguing against accountability for teachers. 

Maybe his actual tone or meaning is different than what this article reflects but he seems to misinterpret “Superman”.  The film certainly highlighted the need for more of the right people in front of students but it also advocated for best practices that have been proven to work in other places.

So Mr. Low or Tom Burns, if you really want to help kids why do you fight against hiring good teachers and firing bad teachers? Why do you support the notion of “tenure”, an insane law which guarantees a teacher’s job without any consideration of skill or accomplishment?
Why do you fight successful innovations like a longer school day, summer school, and merit pay?

This is the fundamental problem with the mayor’s approach.  Collaboration with the union invariably leads to a go-it-slow approach.  And unfortunately the lack of urgency in creating the conditions for strong academic achievement will have bad consequences on students and their families.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 10, 2010  6:38pm

Can someone tell me how will you close this gap upon graduating from collage.

In Job Hunt, College Degree Can’t Close Racial Gap
Published: November 30, 2009

posted by: Truth Avenger on November 10, 2010  7:02pm

The focus needs to be on improving the quality of administrators-not just teachers-among other things. 
Diane Ravitch’s book, “The life and Death of the American School System” should be required reading for all educators but especially the education know-it-alls that are not even in education yet making policy. She writes:
“What is tested may ultimately be less important than what is untested, such as a student’s ability to seek alternative explanations, to raise questions, to pursue knowledge on his/her own and to think differently.  If we do not treasure our individualists, we will lose the spirit of innovation, inquiry, imagination, and dissent that has contributed powerfully to the success of our society in many different fields of endeavor.”  Data is not a panacea folks!

posted by: somewhere on November 10, 2010  9:19pm

We cut the achievement gap….white kids score lower. I’m not kidding you.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 11, 2010  2:15am

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 10, 2010 5:27pm
What a surprise, the union rep arguing against accountability for teachers. 

Maybe his actual tone or meaning is different than what this article reflects but he seems to misinterpret “Superman”.  The film certainly highlighted the need for more of the right people in front of students but it also advocated for best practices that have been proven to work in other places.

He didn’t misinterpret Superman. In fact he is telling the truth.Check out some of the reviews on waiting for Stupid Man. My bad I mean superman.

Diane Ravitch Says Guggenheim’s Movie, “Waiting For Superman,” Is UnFair Propaganda
By Mike Bock, on November 2nd, 2010

This teacher reacts to seeing “Waiting for Superman”
by teacherken
Fri Oct 15, 2010 at 09:04:30 PM PST

Trailer for “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman”

How come they will not show this movie.

Race to Nowhere.

Hey fix what is you take on Joel Klein stepping down and being replace with a person with no education back ground.Her children go to private school here in this state. Does not meet the state’s required minimum of three years of education experience to be certified for the school chancellor job, so she will need a waiver from the state before the appointment is official.Is that fair to the students and parents to have some one who has never been in education to head this type of system which is the larges school system in this coutry.Think about.Would you want a banker to get a waiver to pratcice surgery. Like I said fix school reform is full of corporate vampires.

posted by: Jeremiah on November 11, 2010  8:51am

Nothing will be fixed until the cronyism and political patronage system of hiring school administrators in New Haven is fixed, ie. done away with, period!

posted by: Teacher gal on November 11, 2010  10:12am

Tenure is not an insane law and does not protect a teacher’s job regardless of skills and accomplishments.  We have had an evaluation process for many years. Maybe we should be looking at the administrators that have failed to address poor, ineffective teachers before they receive tenure. Teachers do not suddenly become lazy, ineffective, or as you say, lacking in skills. I agree that some teachers are not effective but there is a process in place to address that and has been for years. IMHO it is the administrators in the NHPS system that have allowed them tenure and therefore the opportunity to provide less than adequate education for their students.

Most of the teachers I have had the opportunity to work with are hardworking, driven, dedicated people who want the best for their students. We work long hours despite what people think, write lessons, manage students from all different types of families, and encourage, motivate, and listen to our students. When our day is done most of us leave with a full bag of work to be completed at home. If people believe what they see on TV, teachers sitting at desks while students dilligently complete assignments, think again.

Collaboration with the teachers union is the only way this process CAN work.  Thank God we have a union, I can only imagine the total mess we’d be in without one.

I think we are missing one very important part to this equation though and that being the social development of our students. I love my students but feel that they are being shortchanged. There are no longer opportunities for them to relate socially with each other which is what the adolescents I work with want more than anything. Students need time and supervision to learn how to relate to each other in positive ways, game rooms, open gym, open libraries to work on, projects, time to just sit and talk with friends. I know many mightvsay that is not the school’s responsibility but as long as kids no longer go home to the neighborhood where there school is located, don’t have families that encourage play dates, and have no opportunities to see their school friends except in school we will continue to deal with the problems of constant talking and fooling around in class.

So, that’s basically my thoughts for now. And as I’m working on a new rather touchy computer and can’t figure out how to scroll back to the beginning please excuse any errors you may find.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 11, 2010  10:52am

Teacher gal - You and I agree on at least one thing.  Administrators should be held just as accountable as teachers. 

We haven’t heard too much about that yet from City Hall….

posted by: DEZ on November 11, 2010  12:07pm

Teachergal, I wholeheartedly agree and appreciate your post!

posted by: Teacher Gal on November 11, 2010  12:16pm

I’d really love to hear Diane Ravitch speak in New Haven. How can I get a ticket?

posted by: David Low on November 11, 2010  12:43pm

Fix the Schools: I will begin with the assumption that you, along with the vast majority of people posting here, truly have the best interests of students at the heart of all your actions and statements. That said, let’s be clear about how schools will best serve the needs and future interests of the students who attend them, and it’s certainly not by perpetuating the same tired model of schooling that we’ve been foisting on our youth for decade upon decade. Your claim that the movie in question advocates for best practices and your subsequent assertion that “successful innovations like a longer school day, summer school, and merit pay” are anywhere near the answer show that your thinking goes no deeper than the majority of people involved in this problem who, with good intentions, ignore far too many of the realities of humans and learning.

First of all, there is abundant research (Sims, Baines, Lee & Barro, and the list goes on and on and on) showing that the length of school year and school day are not positively correlated with increases on even poor measures of learning like the current standardized test regime that so many people hold up as if they meant something. Merit pay has not been shown to have any impact on anything but the most short-term results, and there is ample research (Ariely, Glucksberg, Amabile, Deci & Ryan, and numerous others) to show that the long-term effects of pay rewards are actually NEGATIVELY correlated when it comes to complex tasks like learning and understanding, rather than rote memorization and recall. And I won’t even get into the recent financial crisis, which was brought on, essentially, by short term “merit pay” for the financial sector.

The simple fact, as I continue to say over and over, is that schools were created in their current formulation to serve 20-25 percent of students, by sorting them to the top of their respective schools/classes, and sending them off to 4-year colleges, where they could get the “good” jobs. The next tier down could go to community college or 2-year schools and get a little better-paying job with their training, but that left over half of the workforce to be just that: a workforce. Not a population of knowledge workers prepared for the realities of 21-century jobs. That system never really worked for even those who survived it and came out of it with college degrees: they succeeded IN SPITE OF IT. Ask even the most accomplished graduate of a 4-year college or advanced-degree holder how much relevance and value their K-12 had for them as it pertains to their lives and my guess you’ll get almost universal agreement that it was pretty worthless. Sure: if they prepped somewhere that got them into a “good school”, then they’ll say it was USEFUL, but not that they were engaged by the authentic intellectual work that they were asked to do. The reason they succeeded, by and large, was because they either had lots of support (or pressure) at/from home that overcame the fact that what they were doing in school wasn’t really worthwhile, or because they happened to be really academically gifted (intelligent), and were good at the tasks that schools asked them to perform.

Notice I said “academically” gifted. There are myriad gifts that our students have that are not regarded as relevant enough to direct any of our attention toward. But that’s part of the problem: we hold out the golden egg of academic excellence as the be-all and end-all of personal achievement, to the denial of the reality of most of human experience. It’s simply not what most people are great at. Sure, plenty of people struggle their way through and gut it out, but they don’t really derive much from the experience except a sense of accomplishment at having completed a drudgery-filled task.

And now we’re saying that EVERY student in EVERY school has to go to college, and succeed there, in order to have an equal chance at the brass ring, or a slice of the pie, or whatever metaphor you choose. But the students who have always simply been left out of the equation because they didn’t get “sorted to the top” will not suddenly become more interested in what they’re doing K-12 just because someone says that now suddenly everyone has to go to college. Kids are smarter than that: they see within a few years (if not weeks) of schooling, in most cases, that what’s going on at school is not relevant or meaningful or authentic or engaging, and they buy out. They like being around their friends, sure, and they aren’t given much of a choice, so they go to school. But how many of our students simply “put up with” school? I’d argue that it’s a pretty huge percentage. Inner-city, suburban, rural, I don’t care: there isn’t much going on in schools by and large that connects with reality and what people need to succeed in their jobs or in life in general.

Do this exercise: get 20 parents together and have them make a list of the top 10 or 20 things that they want for their children between the ages of 0 and 18. Then compare it to what happens in schools. There is little, if any, overlap. Especially not when all that’s going on is standardized test prep, driven by all of this accountability that people seem to think will save us all.

Now take the business approach and look at a list of what employers want to see in their employees. Top 10 or 20 skills. Is it happening in schools? Really? I would argue that it does not, by and large.

You cannot coerce, cajole, bribe or otherwise force someone to learn. Period. They must be willing participants, or the exercise is simply doomed to failure. More “time on task” will never change that reality. Longer hours and a longer school year will never make one single bit of difference if all we do is more of the same.

And that’s what I continue to push the Board of Education to consider throughout all of this Reform process.

Now to your allegations about myself and Tom Burns. First of all, were you to ever to identify yourself and actually meet us in person, you would be able to determine within minutes that nowhere will you find two people more interested in “getting rid of bad teaching”. Most teachers, in fact, will be far more vociferous in their condemnation of “bad teachers” than the majority of the public, because bad teachers not only are bad for kids (which nobody wants to see) but they make us look bad, plain and simple. But let’s not jump to the end yet: how about making teaching and schools REALLY be about learning, which includes the education of the TEACHERS. We can’t simply take a bunch of people, put them in classrooms with little or no training, give them no support or meaningful further training, and then expect them to do anything but what they have always done: the best they could with limited resources and/or support. Once we’ve given people support, training, modeled lessons for them, and let them collaborate with their more accomplished and experienced peers on how to get better and try new things that might work to their students’ advantage, and they STILL can’t cut it, then show them the door and point them toward work that better fits their individual skill sets, whatever that may be.

And by the way, that is EXACTLY the kind of teacher evaluation system that Tom Burns and I have tried (along with COUNTLESS others, who volunteered their time and continue to do so, I might add) to create and implement, as leaders of the Reform process city-wide. We still have a long way to go, but we will get there, eventually, and without getting teacher buy-in , the whole process would be NOWHERE, so your contention that “Collaboration with the union invariably leads to a go-it-slow approach” is positively ridiculous. Ask anyone at the city level who sits in meetings with us who wants to move faster: them or us. You may be surprised at the answers you’ll get.

Your comments about us “fight(ing) against hiring good teachers and firing bad teachers” simply shows your true ignorance, not only of us as individuals, but also of the process as it has played out in New Haven. You show me any teacher who’s not pulling their weight, not responding to support and training and positive development and I will personally advocate for their removal. Anyone who has actually met me will tell you the same thing.

And by the way, it’s due process rights that are at issue, when it comes to firing teachers, not “tenure”. College professors have tenure, public school teachers do not. Public school teachers simply run the risk of getting fired by administrators who don’t like them, without protection of any kind, and so teachers were forced (a long time ago) to respond by asking for a better process than simply: you’re fired because I don’t like you. Quite frankly, the system never served the interests of kids, so that’s what we’ve trying to change in New Haven with a new teacher evaluation process. And not for nothing, but the administrators are beginning the parallel, updated process of principal evaluation themselves, so you may get some of what you wished for. Central Office is next up on the agenda, so we’ll have to be patient and wait for it. Notice the order of operations there: the teachers got their new evaluation system FIRST, and then admins and lastly central office. Hardly the work of a union that “lack(s)...urgency”, as you put it, or is being obstructionist, as the national media would have all of us believe.

We are working to change the relationships in New Haven, so that positive supportive interactions between principals and teachers are the norm, rather than the exception. And we’ve got a good start on it, make no mistake. But even if we removed the bottom 50 percent of teachers (never mind the question of who you would get to replace them), it wouldn’t make much of a difference, returning to my main point, if what we do with all of these “better” teachers continue to be asked to play the same ball game with bad equipment. It never HAS worked, and it never WILL work.

Perhaps it is the case that unions nationwide are simply holding up the improvement of schools: I haven’t been working in other districts, so I can’t say. But what I CAN say is that this union isn’t standing in the way of anything. Bring me the evidence and we can have the lively debate. The reason I got involved in this union wasn’t to “protect” teachers”, but to get involved with this reform effort. Quite frankly, there are probably a number of people in the system who wish I hadn’t, because I keep pushing for more than they’re willing to do or make happen in the time frame that I would prefer. I am by nature impatient to see things improve, and it appears that you are, too, Jeff. But let’s have the conversations that we need to be having about wat works and what doesn’t work in schools, what model of school might actually succeed at reaching all of our students, rather than doing more of the same old tired model.

THEN we could REALLY get this ball rolling.

I can be reached at the e-mail below, or you can find me teaching at the Sound School on any school day. The main office will tell you where to find me, or transfer your telephone call to my room (or my voice-mail, if I’m in the middle of class).

Let’s figure out something that works, and not get caught up believing what others would like us to think…

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 11, 2010  12:54pm

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 11, 2010 9:52am
Teacher gal - You and I agree on at least one thing.  Administrators should be held just as accountable as teachers. 

We haven’t heard too much about that yet from City Hall….

So fix then you would agree that what King Bloomberg and other administrators across this country are doing which is put in people who have no education background to run the public school systems is wrong.

posted by: Teacher Gal on November 11, 2010  4:47pm

Dave Low states; “But how many of our students simply “put up with” school? I’d argue that it’s a pretty huge percentage. Inner-city, suburban, rural, I don’t care: there isn’t much going on in schools by and large that connects with reality and what people need to succeed in their jobs or in life in general.”

I would totally agree with Dave on this point. I teach in a K-8 school that is run like an elementary school I see kids that are not engaged in learning but do come daily to see their friends. It is sad what I hear daily from teachers and students regarding the lack of interest they have in learning. And it is not the teachers fault, we are doing the best we can with what we are given as well as what we buy or develop ourselves to use in our lessons. 

I know many classes that don’t have enough textbooks to assign to students as there is only one set per class. Oh yeah, we can copy work for them to take home,hmmmm… if only the copy machine was working or there was paper available to use. 

Please stop making this a “teacher” problem. There are many places to put blame. I do think the reform efforts are going in the right direction despite the fact that at many buildings teachers are feeling intimidated. This can and should be changed. Teachers don’t mind being evaluated and supported professionally but should not be meant to feel that they being put in front of a firing squad.
Maybe some admins need a bit of social development professional development. lol

I know there are some of you out there who feel the same, how about posting.

PS….nice points Dave. I hope you and Tom and Dave C. are listening to the feedback on the new TEVAL from the teachers.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 15, 2010  10:02am

Mr. Low,  Thank you for your thoughtful response.  If you are an example of the new style of teacher union leader perhaps we are on the right path.

Look, as far as teacher unions go, the New Haven Federation is better than most.  I think Dave Cicarella is a good guy and is probably doing as much as anyone can do in his position.  It sounds like you are a good guy as well.

But without debating every point you make which we can do face to face if you want, as a rule teacher unions work against the best interests of children.  Al Shanker, the founding father of the teacher union said it best “When school children start to pay union dues, that’s when I’ll start to represent the interests of school children”

But more specifically here in CT., the local NH Federation sends a portion of your members’ dues to fund statewide lobbying efforts aimed at attacking and harrassing charter schools.  Your statewide leaderhsip and paid lobbyists have for years attempted to keep charter schools from expanding in our state.  They have sought to cap the number of schools, cap the number of seats, keep funding of charters low, break up their management organizations, seek to have the finest teachers removed from the classroom over lack of certification, spread untruths, bully and intimidate lawmakers, and harrass charter operators through issuing a series of FOIA reaquests.

So why does your statewide organization seek to bring down schools like Elm City college prep, Amistad Academy, and Jumoke which have done so much good for disadvantaged children?  It’s one thing not to represent the interests of children.  We get that.  But why do you fund such active efforts AGAINTS charters, their students, and their families?

posted by: Truth Avenger on November 15, 2010  5:35pm

Your post is wrong-headed and replete with untruths. Starting with your assertion that the New Haven Federation of Teachers is one of the better unions.  On what basis do you make that claim?  I have a loved one teaching in the NHPS and I can tell you, the Union is far from one of the better Unions out there.  In fact, it is woefully inadequate.  Teachers who are victimized by incompetent administrators are often bullied without recourse (no backing from the union).  The NHFT should be replaced by the NEA/CEA affiliate… The New Haven Education Association has a nice ring to it-a ring which would symbolize an active and engaged union which does what a union is supposed to do- Protect teacher rights!
As to your other assertion:“as a rule teacher unions work against the best interests of
children.”  That is a blatant falsehood. Unions are the teachers - teachers are the unions. The mandate of the union as I stated, is to protect teacher rights, not work against student interests.  Teachers devote their lives to working with and for the students, but that does not mean they forfeit due process and their rights when things go wrong. Blaming Unions for
student underachievement, is the typical way that those with no answers, deflect responsibility, responsibility which must be shared by all stakeholders including parents, educators, administrators, policy makers and yes, even the children.
As to the Charter schools being held back… Recent studies have concluded that charter schools fare no better and in many cases much worse than public schools- just google that point and you will see a plethora of articles pertaining to the false panacea that are today’s charter schools.

Another False allegation:“So why does your statewide organization seek to bring down schools like Elm City college prep, Amistad Academy, and Jumok” That again, is an unfounded falsehood, and I challenge the writer to substantiate these wild-eyed accusations or stop slinging mud.  We must move past the anecdotal clap-trap and move to strengthen our public schools.  Trying to diminish teachers (and their unions) does a gross disservice to all concerned-but especially our children.

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 16, 2010  5:31pm

Truth Avenger,

Make no mistake – the CEA is a far more regressive, backwards, and harmful union than is the AFT.  While I think that in general teacher unions have no place in public education, I can differentiate between the two unions.  But if you have trouble telling the difference between the AFT and the CEA, just examine the conversation in New Haven (AFT) vs Bridgeport (CEA).  Reform isn’t even on the radar in Bridgeport partly because of a dysfunctional political structure in which the mayor has no power over the school system but partly because the CEA successfully fends off any effort to insert accountability or school choice into state law.  (Fun Fact:  Did you know that before the New Haven school reform initiative that it was illegal in Connecticut to use student outcomes as criteria to review teacher performance?  This insanity is brought to you courtesy of the CEA and the AFT!)

And folks please don’t fall for the “Due Process” canard.  What?  How can anyone be against due process, you say?  After all it appears in the U.S. constitution!  But the problem with using “due process” in an employment context is that the term has been misappropriated from its original context - which was a legal one.  If you have been arrested for armed robbery and face 20-25, the concept of due process is a great idea.  After all, at stake in a courtroom is someone’s life.  And thus in a legal context, due process SHOULD require a very complete judicial process so that there is little doubt that a guilty person is going to prison.  But “Due Process” in an employment context is unduly burdensome and wasteful of resources.  Setting the same standards for terms of employment that we find in death row cases only serves to sap away the energy and necessary flexibility for any organization to be excellent.  Due process was not invented to protect teachers from principals, it was invented to protect individuals from an all-powerful state.  How many people who work in the private sector receive “Due process” protections? 

I get why the teacher unions were invented, i.e. arbitrary and capricious treatment of defenseless teachers by powerful cronyistic administers.  But that time is looong gone now.  And in any event, the legal system has caught up with the injustices that were a part of the teaching profession in the 1950s.  Today if you are unfairly treated, just leave and go elsewhere.  You can always sue later. 

To bring it to life, imagine the concept in another context for a moment.  You get a terrible waiter at a restaurant.  He forgets your order, is rude, and spills soup on your lap.  You speak to the manager.  But instead of quickly changing your waiter, he tells you that without evidence or proof that the waiter was at fault he can’t make any changes.  And even if the boss does have proof that waiter got the order wrong , his contract says that you have to give him three more chances to get it right!  Its fair to assume that all of you would leave that restaurant and go to another one, right?  Not so in public education.  There IS no choice for people of limited means.  They have to take what they get (See: Waiting for Superman) And that’s the way that the unions and the districts want to keep it.  They want to be the only restaurant in town - which brings us to the charter school question.

TA, your’re right - and wrong about charters.  So here’s another analogy: Imagine if the Gates Foundation offered $1 billion to the first scientist who produced an effective aids vaccine.  And 1000 world-class scientists took up the challenge and headed for the laboratory with visions of winning the prize.  And after everything was over, only 1 scientist had produced a vaccine which was efficacious in preventing HIV.  Would you consider the Gates effort a failure because only one found the formula ?  Of course not!  You would thank Bill Gates for stimulating a solution to this worldwide scourge and you would then race to mass produce the vaccine and give it to everybody in Africa, right? 

So to your comment, yes, 80% of charters fare no better than their district counter parts.  But that’s not the point of charters.  Charters were set up mainly to serve as laboratories to figure out what works in education.  They are the R&D dept of our public school system.  And if you look at charters through that lens then the movement has produced 20% of schools that are really, really good.  So what we need to do is to end the experiment for those charters which have proven that they are no better than their district run counterparts.  They should lose their funding and be wound down.  But for those charters which have shown great results, we ought to grow them as fast as we possibly can so that they can serve more and more children.

As for the mud-slinging, if you want to substantiate my claims you can begin with asking any of your state legislators if they have ever been threatened (politically) for their support of charters.  They won’t go on record but I’ll bet you’ll get the facts.  These are largely good folks.  You can also download and read the minutes from the SDE meeting of January 2010 and see where every proponent of the status quo including Sharon Palmer spoke out publicly against equal charter funding.  And I would think that the FOIA requests are also a matter of public record. 

But if you, Truth Avenger and other union members don’t approve of having your dues used to kill high performing charter schools, perhaps you would ask your union reps to STOP USING YOUR MONEY TO FUND ANTI-CHARTER ACTVITIES. 

Would you take that pledge, Mr. Cicarella, Mr. Low, Mr. Burns? 

I’ll even make you a deal.  The day that Sharon Palmer and John Yrchik stop lobbying against school choice and equal funding for high performing charters will be the last day that FIX bashes teacher unions.

posted by: Truth Avenger on November 16, 2010  6:36pm

FIX THE SCHOOLS said “I get why the teacher unions were invented, i.e. arbitrary and capricious treatment of defenseless teachers by powerful cronyistic administers.  But that time is looong gone now.”

That uniformed statement totally undermines your diatribe.
You cite Bridgeport as having no reform- That is not true. Most CEA (Conecticut Education Association) towns are at the forefront and partners in reform. CEA is making sure that those who work the educational trenches everyday, are at the table and full partners in reform.  They are also intent on seeing that commercial and experimental educational enterprises that ultimately seek to usurp and undermine public education,are exposed for what they are.
Now here’s a movie you should be looking for: 

Race to Nowhere, The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture!/video/video.php?v=1552933505908&oid=124392533752&comments;

posted by: NEW HAVEN TEACHER on November 17, 2010  12:23am

Mr. Klaus tells us that “Charters were set up mainly to serve as laboratories to figure out what works in education.  They are the R&D dept of our public school system.”

Mrs. Toll is now running these schools through the Achievement First corporation.  From what we New Haven teachers can tell, AF recruits and retains poor students of color who are willing to learn how to earn high scores on standardized tests.

Tell us how this investment in “R&D” is being paid back to the taxpayer?  Is mastering test taking skills truly remaking our educational system and refreshing American innovation? 

We invite the public to come to your New Haven schools and visit with the students sent away from Amistad because they didn’t boost the bottom line.  In many cases they are happy to be away from a place that didn’t value them - but they tend to arrive to us with unique academic challenges and are particularly divested from school as a result of their negative experiences at AF.  There is probably good reason AF does not share their data on what type of student they “counsel out” of their school, and how many “take them up” on the offer… 

Yes, our poor families and children need help.  We dedicated teachers arrive to work early every day, leave late, and bring our jobs home in the evenings, over weekends and “vacations”.  “Fixing the schools” is a lot more complicated than is frequently presented in the comments on these pages.  This is REAL WORK.  Work that most people are unwilling to do - certainly not for more than a 2-7 year stint - which is the tenure of the average TFA/AF teacher.  Most reasonable members of our society know the challenges of our work and want to continue to invest in a strong professional public school teaching corps. 

In New Haven, we see our problems starting with nonexistent educational leadership.  At the top we have the supreme slacker (aka “Dr.” Mayo) and the disfunction cascades downward through far too many six-figure staffers.  This a huge inefficiency that actively obstructs quality teaching and learning.  Most of these overcompensated people don’t know how to run effective schools - because most of them NEVER HAVE!

We have not seen the magnificent fruits of the “R&D” from “Amistad” show up in the (other) New Haven public schools.  This may be a result of the mind-boggling disfunction of 54 Meadow Street, or it may be a result of no (financial) benefit to AF.  I’ll assume it’s the latter until Mrs. Toll and/or Mr. Klaus openly share their educational strategies from their taxpayer funded education “laboratories” with us.

We’d like to know why these approaches did not work with the population they have rejected. No, of course I mean “counseled” into more “appropriate” environments for “them”.

posted by: Truth Avenger on November 17, 2010  5:59am

Important Summit on school reform that EVERYONE should participate in:

School Change Summit
Sponsored by: New Haven Independent, WTNH

12 local students, teachers, parents and administrators will discuss school reform with author Diane Ravitch; a live stream will be broadcast on and . A simultaneous live blog by a panel of journalists and political figures will follow the action, and people can join their conversation online. Financial support provided by Community Foundation for Greater New Haven and R. J. Julia Booksellers’ “Just The Right Book” (

  Admission: free

posted by: FIX THE SCHOOLS on November 17, 2010  10:06am

New Haven Teacher,

The two most important results from the great charter experiment? 

1.  Allign educator job assessments and incentives with student performance.

2.  Hire ambitious, smart, committed, amazing, outstanding teachers who feel that collective bargaining is not in their own best interests, the interests of school culture, or in the best interests of their students.

As for being “counseled out”, perhaps to back up your claims you would produce figures that show the number of students who transfer OUT of the charter schools vs the number that apply to get INTO a charter school after being “counseled out” of a NH district school?

posted by: NEW HAVEN TEACHER on November 19, 2010  12:09am

Jeff Klaus,

Please support statements 1 and 2 with data, otherwise it is not a research finding from your “R&D dept.”.

In response to your request for information, I share experiences I have had with students counseled out of your corporate (yet publicly subsidized) schools and returned to our nonselective public schools.  They express relief to be in a school that does not push-push-push for them to only do well on tests that measure a narrow set of skills.  They now enjoy the opportunity to encounter children new to the country, children with learning disabilities, as well as children that may not excel at test-taking or reject the proposition of spending their school hours taking practice tests.

I’m curious if you ever question your beliefs?  The more we read your unsubstantiated negative egocentric rants, the more we see you merely as a bitter, shrill voice for school privatization and union busting.  If you really wanted to “FIX THE SCHOOLS” you would take a few days away from the bank to support school change in New Haven.

Sorry, working with the creamed crop at Amistad does not count.

posted by: Tom Burns on November 24, 2010  1:15am

Truth Avenger—that hurts—because the only reason I got involved with this union was to turn this system into a professional one—-If your loved one has been hurt as have some of my loved ones and colleagues by certain incompetent bosses you need to call me—and I will rectify the situation—-The great thing about this reform is that the weak will be identified and removed (from lowly teacher to grand administrator)—-we are the BEST union in the country—you mustn’t be aware of that—lets talk—860-227-6668—Tom

I’ll take care of your loved one—guaranteed