Connecticut Gov. Malloy, Education Officials Embrace Common Core Despite Controversy

Connecticut Gov. Malloy, Education Officials Embrace Common Core Despite Controversy

With even pro-Common Core polls showing support for the education initiative plummeting throughout the nation and among teachers, Connecticut’s Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-WFP) and state board of education chairman Allan Taylor say they will continue to embrace the controversial standards.

“If kids in your schools can not just do math, but understand it,” Taylor said Tuesday to a group of school superintendents, “If they are facile with all of the basics… and understand what they’re doing going into higher math, you’re probably teaching the Common Core.”

Taylor said his board “will continue to focus on the Common Core, because it insists on raising the level… for all of our kids.”

As CT News Junkie observes, however:

In 2010, Taylor and the state board of education adopted the Common Core and asked local school boards to begin writing curriculum with those standards.

Connecticut’s General Assembly never took a vote or had a discussion about the Common Core until last year, when Republicans used a parliamentary procedure to force the Democrat-controlled Education Committee to hold a public hearing.

Taylor said that Common Core is “not a curriculum, and it’s certainly not a lock step procedure.”

Jessica Chiong, parent-organizer of CT Against Common Core, responded to Taylor’s comments in an interview with Breitbart News. She described the actions of the state’s enforcement of the Common Core standards as “bullying.”

“How is this considered raising the bar for education?” Chiong asked. “This is absurd. They take the money for the state to abide by the standards, they bully the towns, districts, and superintendents to enforce the standards, and then send out letters on how to talk to parents.” 

“The Common Core state standards may ‘not be curriculum,’ but the teachers cannot write the curriculum without going off the Common Core standards,” Chiong added. “So, if you are using the standards to write curriculum, then it is curriculum.”

Taylor’s announcement of the state’s continued support of Common Core comes just days after Malloy announced that state education commissioner Stefan Pryor will leave his post.

According to the Hartford Courant, Malloy’s critics say Pryor’s move is an election-year ploy, as the governor strives to hold onto teachers’ votes in his race for re-election against Republican Tom Foley.

“Having served for nearly three fulfilling years as commissioner, I have decided to conclude my tenure by the end of this administration’s current term…” Pryor said in a statement released by Malloy’s office. “Because I believe it’s important to communicate my decision proactively to the governor and the public, I am doing so now.”

Pryor, a Yale graduate, led efforts to develop the state’s new teacher evaluation system and to expand early childhood education. He was widely criticized, however, by some lawmakers, parents, and teachers for his staunch support of the Common Core standards and associated tests.

He steps down from his post amid a state investigation into the operation of the Hartford-based Jumoke Academy charter schools and Family Urban Schools of Excellence (FUSE) charter management group that had received Pryor’s support up until it was discovered that former chief executive officer Michael Sharpe was a convicted felon who lied about having earned a doctoral degree.

Pryor had approved an annual, state-funded $345,000 management fee for FUSE and the Jumoke organization to run Milner School in Hartford.

A federal grand jury is investigating FUSE and issued a subpoena to the state Department of Education last month, seeking Pryor’s emails since January of 2012.

In addition, as the Courant observes, Pryor endorsed the city of New London’s decision in June to hire Terrence P. Carter, an education-reform administrator from Chicago, as its next superintendent of schools, a decision that drew criticism after the discovery last month that Carter referred to himself as “Dr.” and as having a “Ph.D.” for more than five years, when he had no doctorate from an accredited university.

Pryor’s position as co-founder of the Achievement First charter network’s flagship school known as Amistad Academy, located in New Haven, and his ties to charter schools have led to friction in his relationship with the teachers unions, perhaps Malloy’s most significant voting bloc.

Chiong said she believes Pryor is leaving because of his conflicts with the charter schools.

“He has made it very clear he is pro-charter schools and is directly involved in that process,” she said. “If we continue to fail our kids with Common Core, then we will continue in the down hill spiral.”

“The more our schools fail in their testing and grades, the more options it leaves open for the charter schools to come in and say, ‘OK, we gave you this amount of money to fix and raise the bar, but you didn’t, so we will now turn your public school into a charter school,” Chiong continued. “This is already happening, and if Pryor is involved as much as he says, it would be a true conflict of interest to have a commissioner of education producing and profiting from charter schools in Connecticut.”

Nevertheless, East Hartford schools superintendent Nathan Quesnel, co-chairman of the governor’s Common Core Task Force, said he appreciated Pryor’s efforts “toward closing the achievement gap.”

On Monday, Malloy praised Pryor, saying, “Commissioner Pryor has worked hard and well on behalf of Connecticut students. In the three years he’s led the department, we’ve taken tremendous steps forward to improve education.”

“We needed someone who could act as a change agent, and Stefan fulfilled that role admirably,” Malloy said. “And we’re seeing strong results.”

“Common Core is not raising the standards in Connecticut,” Chiong asserts, however. “The statistics over the last couple of years have shown that, since implemented in 2010 our test scores have dropped, and to say that last year’s Smarter Balanced test will not affect the students this year is false.”

“I am tired of the state board of ed lying to the general public. They have no idea what exactly Common Core is and what it entails, but they like the money that is behind it,” Chiong maintains. “Once Connecticut stops receiving the funding, however, who is going to pay to keep up with Common Core and the technology? It will come down to the taxpayers.”


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