Pryor Comes Home, Promises Charter Boost

Melissa Bailey PhotoIn a visit to the hometown charter school he founded 13 years ago, Stefan Pryor applauded the school’s expansion—and vowed to support more Amistad Academies in his new post as the state’s education chief.

Pryor (at right in photo), who joined Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration as education commissioner last month, made the remarks in a dedication ceremony Wednesday morning at the newly combined Amistad Academy K-8 school, now housed in the former Dwight School at 130 Edgewood Ave.

“Who are we proud to be?” Pryor asked a gymnasium full of students, private donors and politicians.

“Amistad Academy!” the crowd roared in response.

It was a familiar chant for the students and for Pryor, one of the founders of the school, which first opened in 1999 on James Street. The public school, which began with 84 students in 5th and 6th grade, has grown to serve 734 kids in grades K to 8.

Pryor was part of a planning group that lobbied the state for more charter school seats, then created what is now one of the oldest and most well-established charter schools in the state. He started the planning process while working as an aide to Mayor John DeStefano then left to finish Yale Law School and launch the school. Pryor said he traveled North America with Achievement First CEO Dacia Toll to look at effective urban schools before the founding group decided on the charter model.

Achievement First, Amistad’s parent company, now runs a network of 20 schools in New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport and Brooklyn, NY.

“None of us could have possibly dreamed” that the experiment would take off as it did, Pryor said. The most surprising development, he said, is that he’s now found himself in charge of the state’s education system.

He credited Amistad with “the attainment of the allegedly and apparently impossible”—teaching low-income kids to excel and defy the achievement gap. Connecticut still has the worst achievement gap in the country, Pryor noted.

He called for Amistad’s model to be replicated to further close that gap.

Amistad’s $34 million rehab project was paid for by 80 percent state funds. It was the first charter school in Connecticut to be rehabbed as part of the state school construction program, which previously was reserved for non-charter public schools.

Pryor called the new Amistad “91,000 square feet of hope and achievement”—and “91,000 square feet of what is possible for the rest of the state.”

After he stepped off the stage, Pryor was asked about his call to create more Amistads.

“Yes—we will promote their expansion,” as well as the expansion of other best practices around the state, Pryor said.

“There are a number of schools that are exemplary” across the state, that are “achieving at a level that would not be expected,” he said. That includes not just charters, but other successful public schools as well.

“Those exemplary schools ought to be replicated” and “emulated,” he said.

Advocates have long lobbied the state to lift barriers to adding more charter schools, and seats in those schools. Right now, every charter school seat is approved by the legislature every year. Charters are funded on a per-pupil basis.

Achievement First CEO Toll, whose allies effectively lobbied for an increase in the per-pupil fee last year, said she’d again be asking the state to lift barriers to charters’ growth.

Pryor agreed the state is too restrictive when it comes to fostering the growth of charters.

“Our state needs to be more welcoming to effective school models,” he said.

“The funding formula is broken”—both for charter schools and for regular public school districts, which are funded through the Education Cost Sharing program. Pryor said he’s committed to revamping ECS, and he’s working on a legislative package that would do so.

Charter school proponents have argued for “money follows the child” system, where when a child leaves a public school district to attend a charter school, the district would pay the charter school to educate the child.

How will Pryor change school funding? It’s too early to name solutions, he said.

Any solutions will “follow my listening tour,” he said.

Pryor continued that listening tour Wednesday in New Haven. He toured the gym floor, where he ran into Dwight activist Curlena MacDonald, and handed a business card to state Rep. Roland Lemar. (See photo at the top of the story.)

He caught up with New Haven state Sen. Martin Looney, the state Senate majority leader. He hugged New Haven banker and charter proponent Jeff Klaus, a co-founder of Amistad, and suggested they grab dinner.

Within half an hour, Pryor had made several promises to have meals with New Haveners now that he’s back in town.

The education commissioner has been a presence in town in the past month. He shook hands at the New Haven school board and congratulated Mayor John DeStefano at his reelection victory party at the Wicked Wolf bar. He’s currently living in New Haven’s Ninth Square.

Wednesday’s conversation with New Haveners began in the morning, when Pryor met with New Haven teachers union leadership at the Omni Hotel.

Pryor suggested New Haven Public Schools’ model should be spread wide as well.

“New Haven made a decision to create a process through with a relationship” would be established between labor and management, while bringing in reforms such as new teacher evaluations based on student performance and new work rules at turnaround schools.

“That alone is a lesson in itself,” Pryor said.

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: Say It Aint so Joe on November 16, 2011  3:35pm

But Achievement First Schools in New HAVEN, Ct where it was started did not all make AYP this past year.

For those who don’t know, AYP means annual yearly progress. 

WHY?  Perhaps instead of touring the Nation, you need to keep focus on where you start out not on constantly expanding.

It would seem that Achievement First took a page from the City of New HAVEN’s BOE construction projects and teachers and administrators forgot to focus on the basics.  It happened to Bishop Woods for the FIRST Time as a direct result of the CONSTRUCTION Activity.  Too much time on SBBAC and not enough on each and every child in a class.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 16, 2011  5:29pm

He is just a front man for corporate school reform.This speaks the truth.

Why I send my children to public schools
By Robert Niles
Published: October 7, 2011 at 1:19 PM (MST)
My two children, ages 14 and 11, attend their local public schools, and have since kindergarten. Why do I send my children to public schools?
1. Public schools work. Every year, millions of American children graduate from public schools across the country, having completed the toughest curricula in our nation’s history, surpassing standards that get tougher by the year. In our public schools, students can learn calculus, analyze complex themes by Nobel Prize-winning authors, study advanced chemistry, biology and physics, program computers, and perform music and dance in international competitions in front of crowds of thousands. Every year, public school students learn, graduate and go on to the world’s best colleges and the world’s most competitive jobs.

But what about all those news stories about bad test scores and failing schools? Aren’t many kids falling behind?

It’s true that we’ve got a huge gap between students in our country - one that grows with each grade level as kids advance from kindergarten into high school. But that’s not because we have an education problem in America. It’s because we have a large, and growing, child poverty problem in our country.

The children whose parents can afford to send them to school with money for lunch, and who have the ability to help them with their increasingly difficult homework at night, typically thrive in the public schools, as they always have. But those aren’t the majority of kids anymore in many districts.

If public education were broken, and our schools no longer had the ability to teach, then why is it you never find any of these “broken” schools in affluent communities? I wrote about this issue last spring, when I showed how the schools in my hometown of Pasadena, California were out-performing the California average in all major demographic categories - white, black and Latino, poor and non-poor - but the district’s overall test score average was below the state average because the Pasadena schools have a far above-average percentage of economically-disadvantaged children attending them.

When we raise academic standards and increase homework requirements, we widen the gap between students whose parents studied algebra, geometry and calculus - and can help them with that homework - and those who don’t have parents like that, or any parent at home, to help them.

Yet even students facing immense home challenges - single parents, foster care, parents working multiple jobs who are rarely home, parents who can’t speak English or who didn’t complete school themselves - are still learning and advancing in our public schools, even if they continue to trail those students who have the advantage of living with educated parents who earn a living wage, or better. Test scores in all socio-economic categories continue to rise in our country. Our public school teachers are doing their jobs. Our schools just need more teachers, and more resources to help close the gap between those children whose birth gave them a head start - like my kids - and those whose birth didn’t.

2. Private schools aren’t inherently better.

A University of Illinois study, published in the American Journal of Education, found that public school students scored just as well in math as students attending private schools, when you compared students of similar ethnic and economic backgrounds. The study followed earlier research that showed public school students scored slightly better (though within the margin of error) than private school students in the same income and ethnic demographic.

One of the ways that many private schools portray themselves as superior options to public schools is by cherry-picking the students they admit. It’s easy to show off students with high test scores and impressive academic achievements when you admit only the students who are inclined - through family support and personal initiative - to score and perform well.

What the University of Illinois research did is to make an apples-to-apples comparison which showed that similar students do just as well or better in a public school environment than in private schools.

I don’t want to talk anyone out of attending a private school, if that’s your choice and you can afford it. But I do want to talk you out of believing that you have to choose a private school, if you want the best for your children’s education. Your child can get an excellent education in the public schools, just as millions of other are getting. The data proves it!

3. Public school students score better than charter school students.

Many politicians, including education officials in the Obama administration, are pushing charter schools as a superior alternative to traditional public schools, which are accountable to the local community through elected school boards. Charter schools don’t have to follow the same rules as public schools, and the idea is that greater freedom flexibility allows them to succeed.

Except that they don’t. A Stanford University study found that students at charter schools were more likely to score worse than public schools students than they were to outperform those students - 37% percent of charter schools did worse than comparable public schools, while only 17% did better. The rest, 46%, scored the same.

So, if you are a parent who picks a charter school over a public school, you’re more likely to end up worse off than going to your local public school than you are to end up in a better-performing school.

4. Public schools are for everyone.

Public schools have to serve every child in a community. They don’t get to cherry-pick only the brightest or wealthiest students. And that’s a large part of their appeal to me. Attend a public school, and you’re getting to know people from every corner of your community, not just people of the same religion or social class. In public school, you’re part of the, well, public.

Public education offers every child in the community a chance at an education. While too many children remain limited in their ability to take full advantage of that opportunity due to circumstances at home, it’s important to me - and ought to be important to you - that those opportunities remain available to all. Education ought to be about lifting up, not weeding out. Without a free, public education system open to all, those who are born without money and power never will have a chance to make their lives better by developing new knowledge and skills.

5. Public schools are under attack.

So public schools work, they teach as well or better than private schools, and better than charters. They’re open to all and helping children from all races, ethnicities and economic classes. So why are so many stories and people so negative about public schools?

Here’s my theory: Public schools are run by the government. They’re the place where more people have more contact with government employees on a daily basis than any other public institution. Public school teachers are almost always members of labor unions, too.

So if you believe that government can’t do anything right, or if you believe that people are better off without labor unions representing them, a successful public school system doesn’t help you make your case, does it?

If you’re a business leader and want to distract people from the fact that more Americans are slipping out of the middle class even as you and your colleagues are getting richer than ever, how convenient would it be to fund foundations and contribute to politicians who will blame poor test scores in the hardest-hit communities on failing schools, instead of the growing child poverty problem that’s causing them?

Don’t fall for their stories. The facts show that public education works. Teachers are doing their jobs, even as society makes it harder and harder for them. We should be rewarding our public school teachers with the extra help, recognition and, yes, pay they deserve.

Here’s how you can help: Thank a teacher instead of trashing them. Offer to volunteer or contribute to a local school. If your school district is asking for a bond issue or parcel tax, vote yes. They need the money.

Don’t sign petitions asking to transfer control of local schools from school boards elected by parents to private companies accountable to no one in the community. If you choose to send your children to private schools or to homeschool, that’s fine, but please don’t tell other people that their children can’t get a good education in the public schools.

I’m sending my children to public schools because I don’t believe in the people who are attacking our public schools. Sending my children to public schools is the ultimate sign of support, and helps keep me more deeply involved in a precious public resource that needs, and deserves, our support.

Public schools work - for my children and the children of our community. That’s why I send my children to public schools, and I encourage other parents to do the same.

Robert Niles also

posted by: The Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on November 16, 2011  5:36pm

This seemingly total capitulation to the Charter School myth will be a hard lesson for the African-American community in the years to come.  It is not an accident that the images of our children are constantly used to promote the “good nature” of these separate and unequal institutions. 

As these schools become more established as normative in our minds, I predict they will include less and less of our children and begin to represent more and more the purpose for which they have been built: To provide a private school education to well-heeled suburbanites at the expense of the tax-payers.  Just note the fact that Charter Schools are now being proposed in parts of the country in areas where no “underprivileged” students exist, right now.

While there is no proof that Charter Schools are doing a better job at educating all of our children than are the normative public schools, (in fact there is evidence to the contrary) the media (including, or should I say, ESPECIALLY this publication) insist on presenting these quasi-private institutions as a necessary step forward in public education.

Just a few years ago, there were many others here in New Haven who vehemently expressed concerned about this issue and engaged in this discussion about how Charter Schools are, and will, be bad for our children, as their allowance re-creates a two-tier public school system not seen since the days of legal segregation.

But as happen with our national and local conversations on many important topics, this one got too deep (read: complex), took too long (read: we couldn’t solve the conflict in a week or two), and was too challenging to the status quo in this city,  so we simply stopped talking about it and allowed the rich, the powerful and the well-connected to do whatever they wanted to do in the first place.

Members of CONNcan were added to the School Board while no members of the opposition were added to balance out the conversation.  But fair-balance is not the order of the day in this “democracy”, anyhow.  Those who can help the status quo are rewarded with jobs and hush money and those who already have money are just rewarded. 

When the Black community wakes up and wonders what happen to the money and the resources for quality education for their children, especially the ones who have been publicly “lotteried” in to the front door of the Achievement First schools and then privately kicked out of the back door when they or their parents couldn’t keep up, you should look back and read warnings like this one.  But, alas, you will be late in responding to what has occurred: i.e. having been sold down the river, with the assistance of your own (well-paid) people.

posted by: ElisaQ on November 16, 2011  7:58pm

When nearly half the students disappear from a school between freshman and senior year—which is, indeed, what Amistad’s graduation numbers from last year show—how can we hold them up as a success?

The students at Wilbur Cross earn higher AP scores (AF kids don’t pass AP tests at all). Sound, Co-Op, Metro, and other NHPS schools provide far richer educational experiences. The changes happening at Hillhouse are truly exciting and revolutionary. Common Ground is a charter school that cares about kids, not just money and press coverage. 

Yet, for some reason, people continue to buy into the PR of this company where the test scores keep falling and expansion has been out-pacing their ability to serve their students since the day their doors opened.

AF is not good for our community or our children.

posted by: Mark Oppenheimer on November 16, 2011  9:16pm

As a traditional-public-school supporter and parent, I find it interesting to read Rev. Ross-Lee’s criticisms of charter schools. But I am curious if he believes that the New Haven parents—mostly poor, mostly minority—whose children are enrolled in these schools should pull them out and send them to whatever neighborhood schools the city slots them into. Or does he believe that parents should not even try to get their children into these schools in the first place? It’s all well and good to theorize about the secret agendas of charter-school supporters, but I am curious what he would have parents do. I’d also be curious to know if he has any children in the New Haven public schools himself.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on November 16, 2011  9:21pm

Rev. Samuel Ross-Lee, 

Is it still the case that you have never visited Amistad Academy? 

If not, I repeat my invitation of several years ago to show you the school and to talk to you about your questions and concerns.

The next visitor morning is December 9th. I hope that you will be open-minded enough to actually see for yourself what this school is about.  After that, at least you can write your impressions from firsthand knowledge.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 17, 2011  12:17am

@Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee.

You are on point.In fact just finish reading these Two Books.

Class Dismissed
Why We Cannot Teach or Learn Our Way Out of Inequality

by John Marsh

Class Dismissed, John Marsh debunks a myth cherished by journalists, politicians, and economists: that growing poverty and inequality in the United States can be solved through education. Using sophisticated analysis combined with personal experience in the classroom, Marsh not only shows that education has little impact on poverty and inequality, but that our mistaken beliefs actively shape the way we structure our schools and what we teach in them.


“As The Assault on Public Education makes so very clear. . . we are witnessing the growth of a destructive set of policies in education and the larger society. This book provides us with a set of articulate analyses of what the future will likely hold if we do not engage in the hard and committed labor of countering these dangerous tendencies today.”

Book Features:

A comprehensive critique of how corporate power is disrupting universal public education.
An illumination of how corporate school reform threatens unions, racial progress, and democracy.
An illustration of how private wealth forges public policy.
A case study of the public school system in New Orleans.

posted by: robn on November 17, 2011  7:05am

Conspicuously absent familial relationship in character descriptions?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 17, 2011  7:46am

He caught up with New Haven state Sen. Martin Looney, the state Senate majority leader. He hugged New Haven banker and charter proponent Jeff Klaus, a co-founder of Amistad, and suggested they grab dinner.

My man fix.I see the fix is in.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on November 17, 2011  9:42am

My friend 3/5 - Yes, even you are invited to come visit as well! Wouldn’t your arguments against great charters be so much more powerful if you had first-hand observation?

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 17, 2011  10:18am

posted by: Jeff Klaus on November 17, 2011 9:42am
My friend 3/5 - Yes, even you are invited to come visit as well! Wouldn’t your arguments against great charters be so much more powerful if you had first-hand observation?

If I come can I bring some union membership cards for the teachers.

posted by: The Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on November 17, 2011  11:05am

Mark Oppenheimer: The answers to your first two questions are - YES.  I do believe that “the New Haven parents-mostly poor, mostly minority (and mostly exploited)-whose children are enrolled in these (Charter) schools should pull them out and send them to whatever neighborhood schools the city slots them into.”  Further, I would agree with the notion that “parents should not even try to get their children into these schools in the first place.“  Of course, what I “believe” (read: Think) is not as simplistic as that. 

I also think that we should work at fixing ALL of the school in the traditional system and allow ALL of the student to enroll in them without their educational success being dependent upon the luck of a lottery or the whim of an administration that can get rid of them or drastically demote them when they or their parents can’t keep up with the militaristic attitude and practices of the schools, whose tactics are more about artificially propping up their test scores then they are about properly educating children.

Sir, I am not “theoriz(ing)” about a “secret agenda”, I’ve seen the evidence, talked with parents and former employees, and observed the practices of the of these Charter Schools here and elsewhere.  That which WAS hidden has surely come to light (that to include Mr. “Fix Our Schools” real name) So, be “curious” no longer about what I would have parents do. 

As to your curiosity about whether or not I have “any children in the New Haven public school”, I must say, you seriously miss the concept of a public institution in the first place.  People who ask this question, usually are hiding behind the misguided notion that if one does not directly use the services of a public institution, one does not have room or right to complain, critique, or criticize (the two not being the same) said services or institution.  Of course this is not true. 

I don’t live in public housing or take public transportation, but as a responsible citizen, I have a moral obligation to be concerned about how these aspects of our community are run and are affecting my fellow citizens, and how those citizen will ultimately affect the rest of the community as a result of the behavior of these public-run (and paid for) entities.  Whether or not my child(ren) is/are directly involved with the public school is, in fact, irrelevant.  Whether or not the public schools are open, available and quality institutions for all students is the moral bases for my, or any citizens’, comments and concerns. 

Jeff Klaus: Besides your comments being personally insulting, I am aware that you must do your due diligence to whomever you answer to/for by suggesting that my comments come from a person who is not “open-minded”. 

You know as well as anyone that I have “firsthand knowledge” of which I speak.  No guided tour of the Amistad buildings or pre-packaged speech by the erstwhile tour guide will change that.  I’d rather get my information from more objective sources.  As to the rest of your comment, I’ll give it the attention it deserves (chirp…chirp…chirp)
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

posted by: Cross Teacher on November 17, 2011  11:26am

I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of Achievement First.  Most of the professionals I’ve met from that organization have been condescending and unwilling to concede that they can learn from veteran NHPS teachers.  (Most, but by no means all.)  However, I disagree with the characterization of AF in these comments.

I do believe that AF is sincere in their mission to educate students who come to school grade levels behind in their academic skills and to instill an environment of success and ambition.  They are definitely doing that at the k-8 level, and they seem to have mixed results at the HS level.  I believe that this will remain their mission regardless of how they are received and funded at the state level.

Whether this mission is fueled by corporate guilt, righteous indignation, or genuine concern for children is also challenged.  I suspect the answer is D—all of the above.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 17, 2011  12:22pm

posted by: Cross Teacher on November 17, 2011 11:26am
I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of Achievement First.  Most of the professionals I’ve met from that organization have been condescending and unwilling to concede that they can learn from veteran NHPS teachers.  (Most, but by no means all.)  However, I disagree with the characterization of AF in these comments.

Check this out.

Monday, October 10, 2011
Former Achievement First parents speak out!
There is a fierce battle over whether an Achievement First charter school will open in Providence. RI-Can and the other Astroturf groups funded by the Walton Foundation and the hedge fund crowd are pushing hard, promoting the spread of this chain of charter schools.

As a public service, we are featuring the eloquent and stirring first-person accounts of two courageous and eloquent NYC parents, May Taliaferrow and Leslie-Ann Byfield, talking about what their children and other children endured at this charter school, known for its strict disciplinary policies and harsh treatment of students with disabilities.

posted by: Teacher In New Haven on November 17, 2011  1:51pm

I have had some experience with AF, visitting a couple of their schools, and socializing with a few of their teachers. 

By and large I have been impressed by their professionalism, and their commitment to their students.  It is not fair for 3/5thus or anyone else to lump their performance in with the larger charter school movement, because their numbers are much much better.

I have experienced the condescension that Cross Teacher notes, and it makes me uncomfortable.  The AF staff that I have interacted with are motivated by a deep and personal commitment to saving the kids they teach from the environments they come from. 

This commitment is very similar to that of TFA (not a coincidence).  They describe their work as putting kids on a different life path.  It is impossible to internalize this mantra of changing lives without accepting that their neighborhoods and schools are failing them.

The problem with AF, is that they can only ever be a stop-gap measure.  It is of course preferable to have some kids go to good schools than to have no kids go to good schools, but that can never be the goal.  The goal, as Rev. Lee notes, must be that every child has the chance to go to good schools. 

Given that AF has a spotty record at best on Special Ed, Graduation Rates, Passing AP Tests, and Teacher Retention, they do not represent a sustainable method for improving education for everyone.  Someone has to take responsibility for the kids that they reject.  And there simply aren’t enough recent college grads, with no kids, and no outside commitments to staff their classrooms.

So while I applaud the work of AF, and I welcome more seats in their schools, it seems to me that AF is not a long term solution for all the kids of New Haven or anywhere else.

posted by: Former Amistad Academy Mom on November 17, 2011  3:16pm

I just wanted to share our experience with AF.  I have two daughters who graduated from AAMS.  When my oldest daughter entered AA in the 5th grade, she was almost 2 grades behind in math.  At the end of the school year she was 2 grades levels ahead.  The time spent on reading, writing and math, I feel was the key for both girls succeeding there.  She went onto Hillhouse’s Macy Honor program and is now a Jr @ Quinnipiac University studing criminal justice minoring in African American Studies.  My younger daughter graduated from AAMS to spend the next 4 yrs at Hopkins.  She is now a Sophomore @ Providence College Studying Pychology minoring in labor relations.  Furthur, it’s the only middle school that I know of that has an active alumni program that follows and supports it’s graduates through high school and college.

posted by: Charter revision on November 18, 2011  5:42am

Only 17% of Charter Schools can be considered to be more effective than traditional public schools, but even this stat is misleading.  There a few charter districts throughout the country, and every public school in America is on either a district or a region.  As such, the charter model cannot be used as an example to educate the majority of children who will end up In traditional public schools.  It is analogous to fixing only Hondas while proclaiming that all automobiles are now “fixed.”. Black people should very concerned that our children are being used as susubjectshis charter school experiment.  Seen any charter schools in the suburbs?

The measure of success seems only to be test scores.  The best charter group in the country (KIPP) has experienced significant problems both educating Black males (50%) graduation rate and having their students graduate from college (23%) six years after graduation.

The answer lies in fixing traditional public schools, holding parents more accountable, removing students who are screwing things up for others who want to learn, improving prporeervice training, removing Superintendents who are merely political hacks, hiring a real educator as Commissioner, and regionalizing boards odd education.

There are solutions, but they are costly and radical.  You can’t tinker around the edges with a problem this massive; we need radical, far reaching and comprehensive solutions.  We can start by removing politicians from education.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 18, 2011  10:46am

posted by: Teacher In New Haven on November 17, 2011 1:51pm
I have had some experience with AF, visitting a couple of their schools, and socializing with a few of their teachers.

Did you ask them about there working conditions.Did you ask them about due process like city teachers have so that when bad boss wants to fire them?

By and large I have been impressed by their professionalism, and their commitment to their students.  It is not fair for 3/5thus or anyone else to lump their performance in with the larger charter school movement, because their numbers are much much better.

If they are commitment to students how come charter schools do not take on the problems that public schools are faced with( ELA and special ed students) . How come If they are unhappy with a student they dump them onto the neighborhood public schools?

posted by: Charter revision on November 18, 2011 5:42am
There are solutions, but they are costly and radical.  You can’t tinker around the edges with a problem this massive; we need radical, far reaching and comprehensive solutions.  We can start by removing politicians from education.

I agree with you.In fact look at what New york Parents are pushing for.

The Charter Schools Act

1. STUDENT RIGHTS – Charter schools MUST be required to retain Special Ed and ELL students. No longer push out, counsel out or expel them out of the school.
2. PARENT RIGHTS – Every charter school board MUST have a parent board member who is the President of the school’s independent parent association.
3. BILL OF RIGHTS – There MUST be a universal Parents Bill of Rights and Students Bill of Rights for charter schools.
4. INDEPENDENT PARENTS ASSOCIATION – Every charter school MUST be required to have an independent parents association.
5. CO-LOCATIONS – The state MUST develop a better process in determining co-locations in public school buildings in New York City because it is pitting parents against each other.
6. ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY – Charter school board members and employees MUST be held to rigorous financial disclosure requirements and conflict of interest prohibitions as all other organizations receiving public money. There MUST be more oversight of Founding Boards. Board members MUST NOT be allowed to be permanent trustees. All employees (principals, directors, staff) MUST not be allowed to serve on the board. All schools must be audited by the State Comptroller.
7. CHARTER CONTRACT & BY-LAWS – Every charter school MUST be required to post their charter and by-laws online to increase accountability and transparency in charter schools and their governing boards. Every board meeting MUST be held at the school.
8. STATE RECEIVERSHIP – The state MUST have the authority to take over a charter school and re-constitute the board of trustees.
9. MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS – For Profit Management organizations MUST NOT be allowed to manage charters. Public money should be spent on public students.
10. COMPLAINT & GRIEVANCE PROCESS – The state MUST develop a formal complaint and grievance process that includes tracking and resolving issues within 30 days.
11. TEACHER RIGHTS & PROTECTIONS – Teachers in charter schools MUST be provided with whistleblower and job protections when exposing corruption, financial mismanagement and corporate chicanery in charters. No teacher should be fired for standing up for their students. E.g. East New York Prep Charter School.
12. CHARTER AUTHORIZATION – Authorization MUST only be granted by the Board of Regents. show more show less.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 18, 2011  11:06am

If you want to see the real deal on Charter School.Get this movie.

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting For Superman.

posted by: The Rev. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on November 18, 2011  12:38pm

@Charter Revision: Your statement is one of the best presentations I’ve read on here concerning this issue. 

Thank you for writing!

posted by: Beth on November 21, 2011  4:32pm

Achievement First schools (which have plenty of faults) cannot be the only solution to get us out of the mess that is our current educational system. Yes, they do a disservice to kids who don’t behave “just so” but seem (just like traditional public schools) to do a good job with a certain type of kid. Isn’t the answer to have public schools who can serve each subgroup of kids?: gifted, high, middle, a little behind, and struggling? I also suggest we stop thinking of all charters as the same—they are not, not in our state or in any other, so blaming “charter schools” is unfair. Instead we need to look at individual schools or groups of schools with the same mission. That flexibility to look however they want to achieve their vision is the strength of the model. Say you want to do X, make a great plan, get approved by the State, then either do X or get shut down. I wonder if the State is looking at the range of charters our towns and cities need to ensure every child has the educational environment he or she needs—they should be.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on November 21, 2011  5:22pm

Wow, even Rev. Ross-Lee and I agree that “Charter Revision” has some great observations.  A couple of comments though:

Very few charters in the suburbs.  Around the country there are plenty of charters in the suburbs or in the rural areas.  But you’re right, in CT. there aren’t any as far as I know. My theory as to why there isn’t a clamoring demand for charters in CT suburbs is because plenty of parents in the burbs who choose not to put their kids into the public school simply have the resources to pay for private school.  And other suburban parents are able to compensate for a decidedly mediocre public education system by hiring tutors and working at home with their kids. These work-around options are not generally available to parents in inner cities.

Otherwise, great urban charters like AF ARE very much the equivalent of private school quality education.  And plenty of parents in New Haven, Bridgeport, Hartford, and Brooklyn recognize this value which is why the AF school are always over-subscribed in the district lotteries.

To highlight the KIPP graduation/success rates,(I haven’t checked the accuracy of the numbers)yet not compare them against the graduation and college matriculation rates of public schools at large, seems to be ignoring a major factor.

Are gap-closing charters where they want to be in terms of getting their students to a successful college experience?  No! The staffs at KIPP, AF, & UNCOMMON SCHOOLS will never be satisfied until they reach every single child.  But if college is the goal for an African-American high schooler,  their chances at attaining that goal are FAR, FAR greater if they attended these charters than the traditional publics.

And yes, the answer does lie in fixing traditional public schools - but it is a certainty that this cannot happen without the aid of competitive forces from alternative schools - schools that are set up to deliver for children not the adults.

Also, I would ask what you would do with the children who are “Screwing up”.  And as an aside, I find it fascinating that you have garnered accolades from Rev. Ross-Lee whose diatribes seem to focus largely on the need to have all schools educate ALL children.  Yet here you are advocating to kick kids out and he thinks your presentation is one of “the best”.  (I can’t wait to read how he reconciles his support for your idea of “removing kids” with his harangues about the myth of wide-spread charter school creaming.)

Lastly, no truer words were written when you say:

“You can’t tinker around the edges with a problem this massive; we need radical, far reaching and comprehensive solutions.  We can start by removing politicians from education.”


posted by: ElisaQ on November 22, 2011  9:32am

@Jeff Klaus:

“AF school are always over-subscribed in the district lotteries.” Why? Because they have excellent public relations. Families clamor to get their children in because of what they have heard, but they don’t stay there once they experience the incredibly restrictive approach to education.

Does AF work well for some kids? Sure. But it is not the answer, and it does not have the answers.

posted by: More charter revision on November 29, 2011  5:47am

@ reverend Ross-Lee:  thanks for the compliment.  I have to say that I am always impressed with your thinking, especially in regards to public schools.  Mr. Klaus, I would urge you to check the veracity of contention regarding Kipp schools.  I got the numbers from two different articles, one of which was an article featuring the Founder of Kipp schools.  What I interpreted as skepticism on your part is par for the course for charter school advocates who have come to believe, as you contend, that charters are better at getting black kids into college.  The problem with your thinking is that you compare the end goal (in this case, college admission), without an appreciation for the significant differences in schooling.  For example, if a charter high school has only 100 students, and 75 go to college, you boast that the high school has a 75% college admission rate.  Mathematically, you would be correct.  However, if there is a traditional school with graduating class of 500, and 300 go to college, its college acceptance rate would only be 60%, but 4 times as many students would be going to college.  And consider that in the traditional school, with the exception of those students rightly counseled into adult education, they must keep and educate all their students and are not able to simply counsel the ones who may not make it back to their home schools.

Those of us who see charter schools as a precursor to a larger ideologically and actual attempt to turn over public funds to banks and other private interests have to remain vigilant in our efforts to advocate for public school change will simultaneously advocating for public schools.  I believe Mr. Klaus’s is himself a banker, which is no coincidence.

Finally, we are at a pivotal point in American public education.  There is little in the way of true leadership in this area, and with the hiring of a commissioner who has never taught one single lesson in a public school, and who has stated publicly that he wants more charter schools - despite the research which leads reasonable people to conclude otherwise - there is no reason to be hopeful about meaningful change.  If we are to learn a lesson, let’s turn to Finland where there is only one standardized test, and that only happens in the 10th grade, there is universal pre-school, and there is a real vocational system in place.

(please excuse all the typos from my first post.  The iPad 2 has a terrible keyboard.

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on November 29, 2011  11:50am



To the issue: It is not very difficult for me to agree with CHARTER REVISION’s (CR) remarks AND continue to advocate for the education of ALL students, as CR’s remarks and my thoughts are not incongruent.  This of course is true if you consider what CR actually said, and didn’t say, and not what YOU tried to morph the comments into. 

As I see it, the difference in suggesting that we “remove students who are screwing things up for others who want to learn” and what Achievement First-style Charter Schools are doing is huge, if not obvious to you.

There is nothing in any comments that I have made that suggest that it might not be necessary to remove students from classrooms or even entire schools if said students are consistent and continual disruptive forces in the class/school.  But in doing so, the district, the school system, and the society STILL have an obligation to try to teach these children. 

Removing disruptive students from a particular setting in order to improve the environment for other students, does not relieve us of the obligation to continue to help that student.

But helping “removed” students is a far cry from what AF-style, KIPP, and other such Charters are doing and have done. What you have done, Jeff, is remove students from your schools, ... and then claimed that you are “dealing with”  the “same students” that the traditional schools are, when CLEARLY you were/are NOT.

When a traditional public school is forced to remove a kid from a particular setting, that kid REMAINS apart of the over-all numbers that define the system’s “success/failure” rate.  When your schools cream students from your rolls because you can’t handle them, they are gone forever, as if they never existed, and they are not counted against your propped up “success” rate.  Hence, there is removing and there is banishing.  Traditional schools might have to (re)move students.  But society (in the form of the school system here) cannot afford to banish these kids as if they never existed, and then lie about their numbers to make the system appear to be doing a better job than they are, or to dupe the public in to believing that no “hard cases” ever existed in our schools (society) in the first place. 

Sorry to have kept you waiting so long for a reconciliation of two ideas that really needed none.  But my “harangue” continues against a system like yours that is essentially disingenuous and dishonest for the sake of hijacking our public school system to benefit(and enrich, monetarily I mean) the few at the expense of the greater good.

Again, CHARTER REVISION, Thank you for writing!

posted by: Beth on November 29, 2011  1:09pm

Hey, Charter Revision and Rev. Ross—what do you think of the Domus school in New Haven and their schools down in Stamford? Their deal (as reported in this paper) is that they target the most failing kids—students with terrible behavior and really bad past academic performance. I’ve heard the “creaming” allegations about charter schools (and have heard from parents directly about AF schools creaming and kicking kids out who have behavior issues)—hard to lump the Domus schools into the same category. But what is your view on their value—do you agree with their approach? (Assuming we’ve all heard and believe the same thing)

posted by: Jeff Klaus on November 29, 2011  3:27pm

Charter Revision - Your math is unassailable!  Did you attend Wilbur Cross H.S.?

But if high-performing charters send a higher percentage of kids to college (which they do) then why wouldn’t we want to rapidly and urgently provide those same odds to a lot more kids? 

And your exception clause for Adult Ed. is interesting.  Critics claim that charters push kids out but they never seem to mention that the district has historically pushed thousands of kids out to Adult Ed. over the years.  In fact, you seem to support the practice by calling it “rightly”. 

One way we can address the needs of kids who don’t fit into traditional schools is to give them a chance to attend a charter school, some of which are designed to better respond to high needs children, like Domus.

And Rev. Ross-Lee, it was just a few years ago that supts and mayors regularly did not count those Adult ed transfers as drop-outs even when the degree awarded at AE was not equivalent to a high school GED.  Dr. Adamowski blew the lid off that charade up in Hartford when he arrived as Supt.  Shortly thereafter, districts started to produce more accurate numbers. The result?  Instead of a drop out rate of 20 or 25%, Hartford and New Haven are now accurately reporting it in the 40% range and higher. 

Btw, it must be said that to the great credit of this Mayor and Supt.,  New Haven is now highlighting the dismal drop-out numbers as evidence that we need to do far, far more to solve the problem.  And while I don’t agree on everything that they are trying to do, they deserve a lot of credit for recognizing the crisis and working like hell to come up with solutions. 

At least they are trying.  Which brings me back to you, Rev.  It’s clear by now that you don’t like charters, AF, or me.  Ok, fine. But at some point people of influence need to not just offer criticism but also offer up realistic alternatives.  So when are we going to hear how YOU would propose to close the achievement gap in New Haven?

posted by: Charter Revision on November 29, 2011  3:37pm

@Beth.  I have some knowledge about Domus, which comes from at least two staff members who have worked there.  However, I do not have enough evidence or data to speak specifically to Domus.  What I feel confident in writing, however, is that public schools cannot be structured as profit-making enterprises because the public school sector and private sector have completely different goals.  For the the private sector, it is money in - money out.  The only thing that matters to the private sector is money.  For the school system, it is resources in (material and human) and educated, productive, engaged citizens that come out.  Given that significant difference, private companies (of which Domus is one), inevitably cut corners and withhold key services for kids because of cost.

As to Mr. Klaus, in my last posting, I mentioned KIPP founder David Levin.  The appropriate link for that article is  the article states, “According to a report that KIPP issued last spring, only 33 percent of students who graduated from KIPP middle school 10 or more years ago have graduated from a four-year college.  That rate is considerably better than the 8 percent of children from low-income families who currently complete college nationwide, and it even beats the average national rate of college completion for all income groups, which is 31 percent.  But it still falls well short of KIPP’s stated goal:  that 75 percent of KIPP alumni will graduate from a four-year college, and 100 percent will be prepared for a stable career.”  What is important to consider is that the article does not speak to college completion rates for the same 10 year period, but only to rates for the recent year.  While KIPP does better than the national average by 2 points, Charter Schools generally, and KIPP in particular, have touted for years that their kids are much better off because of the Charter experience.  While there may be some charter schools with better standardized test scores, these tests are of no significance in college.  As such, obsessive test preparation leads to insufficient levels of creativity and innovation, just when America needs both of these things more than ever.

Perhaps it would serve Charter Schools well to refrain from making their “we are the best” claims, when there is insufficient evidence to support that claim.  Charters would be better served to morph their message into a “we are one of many options” claim.  The utter and unmitigated arrogance of Charter School advocates encourages people to oppose the schools’ existence, if for no other reason than the profound arrogance itself.

Finally, let me be clear:  There are times when students need to be removed from traditional public schools because they are intefering with the learning of others, or they simply cannot handle a traditional school.  As Rev. Ross-Lee cogently points out, we don’t dismiss them, we reassign them.  Charters routinely remove them from their care entirely so that they do not ruin test scores.  This is a wonderful debate, and one that should be held in public forums throughout the city.  What can emerge is a new way of thinking about education, and, I pray to God, a new group of educational leaders in New Haven.

posted by: Cross (Math) Teacher on November 29, 2011  3:48pm

@Jeff Klaus:  Thank you for reinforcing my comment about the condescension of AF professionals.  I was afraid that someone might think that I was exaggerating.

I have so many barbs that I could launch at AF, specifically Amistad High School, in comparison with Wilbur Cross High School.  However, I think I’ll demonstrate character (which I believe is one of the traits AF emphasizes for your students, if not for those representing AF’s point of view) and politely bite a hole through my tongue.

posted by: Jeff Klaus on November 29, 2011  4:07pm

@Cross (math) Teacher - I am not a professional at AF and they are not my schools.  While my wife works there, I am relegated to being only a big, loud fan. 

But in any event, I wasn’t being condescending.  Actually I am a very proud grad of Wilbur Cross and I must tell you that the best teacher I ever had in any school was a WCHS math teacher (Evelyn Pleasure).  She was tough, firm, demanding - and she really, really cared about her students.  I only wish that I had been a better math student for her.
Go Govs!!

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on November 29, 2011  7:10pm

J. Klause: “It’s clear by now that you don’t like charters, AF, or me.  Ok, fine. But at some point people of influence need to not just offer criticism but also offer up realistic alternatives.  So when are we going to hear how YOU would propose to close the achievement gap in New Haven?”

My Response: While it is a well-worn (and by now, trite) notion that stand-alone criticism is bad, I don’t agree.  Accurate criticism by itself is worthy and useful. While stand-alone criticism might not tell us where to go next, it definitely does warn us against where we are going right now.  The person who knows that the path on which I walk is without a bridge up ahead can criticize my decision to take that path, without having an alternate path for me to take, or even without telling me that the bridge is out, for that matter.  My simply believing in the critics warning could be enough to save me a lot of trouble, despite the fact that the critic is bereft of alternatives.  Accurate criticism alone is good.  Nothing need follow.

That having been said: If you were wise Jeff, you would have noticed by now that I’ve offered more than criticism here; I’ve offered a serious, substantive, and sustainable critique.  Criticism, while not bad in itself, merely points out that something/person is bad, wrong, inappropriate, etc.  A critique, however, goes the extra step to point out why and how that thing/person has gone or is going awry.  The object of legitimate criticism need merely stop what they are doing, for fear of proceeding too far down the wrong road.  The object of critique, however, has more to go on, and if they are smart might be able to figure out another path to take, based on the whys and the hows of the critique.

The critic says: You’re going the wrong way, but the critique says: You’re going the wrong way because the bridge is out up there.  The hearer of the first statement stops going the way they are going, but the keen listener of the second statement stops going that way they are going and find a path that has a functioning bridge.  And in some cases might even ask, do I really need to go traveling in the direction I’m going in the first place, so that a bridge is necessary.

I’m not here to fix your PR problem for you, Jeff.  I’m here to tell you that public education is not an enterprise that should be subsumed into a business model for the private wealth building of the well-positioned at the educational, social, and democratic expense of our most vulnerable citizens. .  Beyond that I’ll merely say, stop looking for the silver bullet to close the achievement gap.

posted by: Beth on November 29, 2011  9:55pm

@Charter Revision: To your comment “Given that significant difference, private companies (of which Domus is one), inevitably cut corners and withhold key services for kids because of cost.” Well, I checked—Domus is a nonprofit with a 501 c 3 certification. There are definitely private for-profit charter companies out there (not sure if there are any in CT), but Domus isn’t one of them.

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on November 29, 2011  11:16pm

To the Editor: I would appreciate your not editing my comments here. If you wish to challenge a comment I’ve made as untrue, then do that. But please do not edit my comments simple because they may offend your sensibilities, as I can find nothing more offensive than the so-called independent media being the nonobjective sycophants of the business community, the not so hidden supporters of the Charter school sham.

[Editor: Thank you for posting comments. We do edit out parts that violate our rules, including personal attacks and harsh language. We do not edit the substance of arguments about charter schools or any other issue. We appreciate the thousands of words you have posted arguing against charter schools, and have never edited out the substance of those arguments. Our policy can be found here. We very much appreciate everyone’s comments. We understand if some people take exception to our site enforcing these policies and editing out portions that violate them; there are sites that do post libelous comments, personal attacks, hate speech, etc. in full.]

posted by: Jeff Klaus on November 30, 2011  9:14am

Reverend, If you feel censored, you can always email directly with your uncensored comments.  You have my email.

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on November 30, 2011  10:40am

To the Editor:

I resent the veiled accusation that my comments contained “hate speech”  or any such thing.  I sure you would be embarrassed if I copied and pasted the comments made my Mr. Klaus that were personal attacks on me. 

The fact is that Mr. Klaus’ comments were “revisionist” AND it is a FACT that the Achievement First people initially denied that they were creaming their student body.  It is also a fact that Mr. Klaus works for and in and industry that charges people to take their own money out of ATM machines. 

What part of that, Mr./Ms. Editor is “hate speech”, or mere “personal attacks”.  I guess it’s all purely subjective when this publication is supporting the work that Klaus and others are doing

posted by: Jeff Klaus on November 30, 2011  10:58am

Rev ...  I hope you find peace.

posted by: The Rev. Mr. Samuel T. Ross-Lee on November 30, 2011  11:43am


Thank you for your concern for my well-being. My peace comes from speaking out and standing up for the oppressed and the exploited.

My Morehouse Brother The Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us that “Peace is not the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”

I pray Jeff that you work for justice.

posted by: Charter Revision on November 30, 2011  2:56pm


Clearly you are aware that many non-profits make extraordinary profits.  While they may qualify as non-profits, I can guarantee you that there is a tremendous concern for the bottom line, resulting in cut corners.  Since you mentioned non-profits, many charter schools use other non-profit organizations to funnel additional resources to their schools so that they can make the claim that they “do more with less tax money.” Nothing could be further from the truth.  First, Charter schools do not provide special education services to their students.  They have the tremendous advantage of placing that extremely costly responsibility on the shoulders of the sending traditional district.  Equally as important, Charter Schools are tremendously crafty in avoiding public scrutiny of their spending by “establishing independent nonprofits to collect and spend private contributions on the school’s behalf…these funds are not publicly reported.”  In addition, no one knows about Charter School budgets because their board meetings are never publicized, therefore they have been able to circumvent state law that requires public notice about meetings for public entities.  I could go on forever, but suffice it to say that all that glitters is most often just glitter. Gold is much harder to come by.

posted by: Beth on November 30, 2011  6:40pm

@Charter Revision: By your own admission you “do not have enough evidence or data to speak specifically to Domus.” Fine. Yet you seem plenty willing to lump them in with other nonprofits and certainly lump them in with other charters. Sounds like you’ve done your homework, as have many of us following the charter movement, and if you have, you know they are NOTHING like other charters. And it’s really unfair for you to make the general statement “Charter Schools are tremendously crafty in avoiding public scrutiny of their spending.” Crafty? You make them sound like they’re run by mobsters! How about acknowledging there are simply different requirements? I work for a nonprofit: We have to give our budgets and audited financials to all kinds of people, and most nonprofits who care about transparency make those audits available to the public. Fine, ask tough questions of an effort like the charter movement—we all should—but it’s hard to take you seriously if you make blanket statements. Go visit a Domus school (I have—I know an English teacher at one); ask for their audited financials, and ask for their results. But saying all charter schools are evil is like saying all blondes are dumb. It sounds like you care about the quality of education here, and if that’s the case, be willing to put in the time to research—with an open mind instead of trying to catch them doing something wrong—to figure out who’s trying to do a good job and speaks the truth.

posted by: Charter Revision on December 2, 2011  9:06am


You are confusing my two posts.  I am not speaking specifically about Domus (which I wrote in the post).  As such, I do not lump all schools -charter or otherwise - together.  I do not need to visit Domus as my kids will not attend Domus, they attend traditional public schools.  However, Domus officials have made well-publicized statements about their effectiveness, and I hope they have the data to back up those claims. 

Charters are crafty in avoiding public scrutiny.  If not, then you tell me when and where their Board Meetings take place.  You tell me when you have seen their entire operating budget.  You tell me where you go to find out if their teacher’s are certified.  You tell me what their teacher salaries are.  You tell me where I go to find out teacher attendance rates.  All this information is readily available at traditional public schools - inclusive of magnet schools.  I have not stated, suggested nor inferred that all Charter schools are evil.  In fact, I have not said that any are evil - you used that description.  What I am saying is that Charter schools are not the panacea for what ails public schools.  This will suffice as my last post concerning the issue.  It seems as though I have struck a chord by using actual evidence…

posted by: ElisaQ on December 2, 2011  10:00am

@Jeff Klaus:

When you consider the college admissions rates of charter school students, do you take into account the many students who leave between freshman and senior year? That was nearly 50% at Amistad High last year, most of whom returned to our public schools.

posted by: Beth on December 2, 2011  10:11am

@Charter Revision: The only “evidence” I see is your willingness to talk about all charters across the US as the same (when there are different laws and models in each state) to convince us the entire experiment is bad. That’s not evidence speaking to anything but your desire to put down charters. You ask me to point out all kinds of data points; I do not have the time or inclination to do the work for you (though one is easy: I just visited the websites of both Domus charter schools, which have the board meeting agendas and approved minutes on the home page of each site). Maybe your anger should be directed toward the State Dept. of Education; it seems it their rules you do not like because they treat charters differently. If you want to talk about charters nationally, do so, but readers know all the charters in this state are the not the same, and we know CT’s model differs from that of other states. If you want to talk about improving CT education and the variety of ways charters are being used to address local education issues, then please do that. Otherwise you are using (accurate) data to highlight mixed national results when our own state’s implementation of the charter effort has been above average, with charter students making gains which, on average, meet or exceed those of the state average ( - vertical scale score data). We’re all free to dislike the charter experiment, but if you want to dislike CT’s experiment, you should build your case on CT data instead of what KIPP is doing in Texas. Good luck.