Organizations team up for education reform

The Connecticut Parents Union and education reform group StudentsFirst joined forces last week to promote a multifaceted educational reform in the state legislature.

The two organizations finalized their partnership last Thursday at a meeting in Hartford, said Gwendolyn Samuel, founder of CTPU and member of StudentsFirst — the national organization promoting teacher tenure changes. Samuel said she heard of StudentsFirst CEO and founder Michelle Rhee’s activism in the field of social work, and initiated the partnership to jointly back “profound and lasting changes” in Connecticut’s education system at the 2012 legislative session. One of the organization’s major goals is to close the state’s achievement gap, which ranked as the largest in the nation in 2011, according to the Department of Education.

“Connecticut’s large achievement gap, which is severely impacting the stability of its economy, as well as its unjust laws that enable unqualified professors to teach our children, require immediate legislative action,” Samuel said, adding that her organization’s cooperation with StudentsFirst has already resulted in plans for a parents’ rally scheduled to take place on March 13 in Hartford. Rhee and Gov. Dannel Malloy are expected to speak, and around 700 parents have already expressed their interest in attending, Samuel said.

Samuel said she believed both organizations’ commitment to grassroots organizing would prove crucial to their collaborative success, adding that hundreds of concerned parents as well as social justice advocates contact her daily with requests to join the educational reform cause.

Rhee expressed similar sentiments in a Feb. 9 StudentsFirst press release, announcing her organization’s plans to begin advocating for reform initiatives in Connecticut at the request of CTPU and other Connecticut-based organizations.

“We’re excited about the hunger for change we’re seeing at the grassroots level. There is a clear push for reform coming from state leaders, moms and dads, teachers and the business community,” Rhee said, adding that aware citizens should make sure the policies implemented and decisions made in Connecticut schools are centered around the needs of children.

Yet Samuel and StudentsFirst spokesperson Nancy Zuckerbrod agreed that while the grassroots movement is powerful, reform must also come from the top. There is “an undeniable conflict of interest,” Samuel said, in trying to protect both the interest of students and the interest of teachers — a conflict, she said, recently exemplified by the arrest of Tanya McDowell, a homeless mother charged with larceny for sending her five year old son to a Norwalk, Conn., elementary school despite having no permanent residence in the district.

Connecticut State Sen. Martin Looney — the State Senate Democratic majority leader who began the 2012 legislative session earlier this month by supporting Malloy’s education plan — said that issues of schooling reform “will be looked into.”

“There will be proposals to address tenure, and student progress will be a factor considered in evaluations regarding tenure,” Looney said, adding that a periodic review of teachers is a solution that might be debated.

Samuel founded CTPU in 2011. StudentsFirst was founded by Michelle Rhee in 2010 and now operates in 16 states.


  • GwenSamuel

    CORRECTION: March 14, 2012 Parents and Families High Quality Education Rally


    Yale News needs to look into this.

    Michelle Rhee Responds to D.C. Testing Scandal

    Thursday, March 31 2011, 2:14 PM EST Tags: education, Michelle Rhee
    This week Michelle Rhee, the face of an education reform movement sweeping across the nation, was called to answer for a possible cheating scandal that happened under her watch as the former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. schools. After initially dismissing the study, Rhee acknowledged this week that cheating may indeed have taken place in her district, calling her earlier criticisms “stupid.”

    “It isn’t surprising,” Rhee said in a statement, “that the enemies of school reform once again are trying to argue that the Earth is flat and that there is no way test scores could have improved … unless someone cheated.”

    News of eyebrow-raising testing irregularities rocked the education world this week, and gave more ammunition to critics of the education reform movement who say that an obsession with numbers-based evaluation systems of both teachers and students has consumed education. A USA Today investigation found wildly improbable test erasure rates in some Washington, D.C. schools that led to inflated test score results. USA Today singled out Crosby Noyes Education Campus, which had posted laudable gains in its test scores and was recognized by Rhee, awarded extra money under new policies Rhee instituted, and received national accolades for what appears now to have been false academic progress.

    Standardized test scanning machines scan both the final answer a student bubbled in, as well as any previous marks the student eventually erased. The USA Today investigation found that at Noyes, students were posting very high erasure rates that were far above the district average. Not only that, but a large number of the erasures were from the wrong to the right answer.

    “Often times when the academic achievement rates of a district like D.C. go up, people assume that it can’t be because the kids are actually attaining higher gains in student achievement but that it’s because it’s something like cheating, which in this case was absolutely not the case,” Rhee told Tavis Smiley earlier this week, insinuating that the attacks against her education reform agenda were rooted in people’s insulting low expectations of students.

    The district’s acting school chancellor Kaya Henderson this week asked the inspector general to look into possible misconduct


    Also you need to look into this.

    Rhee bragged about taping students’ mouths shut while she was a Teach for America ‘teacher’

    John Kugler – September 22, 2010

    In a recent Washington Post audio posting, Washington D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee is shown admitting that she taped shut the mouths of her young students because she could not control their talking while she was working in the Baltimore Public Schools as a Teacher for America teacher. Rhee then laughs about taping her students mouths shut with masking tape and then walking them to the lunchroom. According to Rhee, she tried the tape method after she was unable to keep the little ones from making noise when she marched them through the hallways to lunch.In an even more disturbing revelation heard on the tape Rhee laughs about when the tape was removed hurting the children and some even started to bleed. Michelle Rhee, along with New York Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and Chicago’s Ron Huberman, have been held up by the corporate news media as examples of the new breed of school district executives, the type of education leaders that public schools need to “shake things up.The audio tape of Rhee’s speech was obtained and authenticated by The Washington Post, which until recently had supported Rhee and her methods as D.C. schools chief.

    Here’s the link to the audio from The Washington Post: