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State Will Give Up to $1M To PR Firm To Promote Changes In Education

by Christine Stuart | Dec 30, 2013 6:30am
(13) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Education, Jobs, Labor

(Updated 8:36 a.m.) Four companies are vying for a $1 million public relations contract with the state Education Department to promote a new assessment tool called the Common Core State Standards.

The names of the four companies are exempt from public disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information statutes until the contract has been awarded. A spokeswoman for the Education Department declined to divulge the names of the companies Friday explaining that the contract had not yet been awarded.

In the meantime, even though they declined to comment on the amount, at least two education stakeholders said they believe informing parents and the public about the changes is in the best interest of the state and will prevent misunderstandings in the future.

“The Common Core will provide a clearer, deeper understanding of what our students will need to know when they enter the global marketplace,” Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said Friday. “It gives them enough information so they can make good decisions in the future.”

The National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers developed the Common Core out of a concern that the United States was falling behind the rest of the world. The standards are expected to teach children to be critical thinkers and to resolve problems in ways that go beyond memorization.

A national poll released in August by Phi Delta Kappa International and Gallup found that nearly two out of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards.

The new assessment also sets a national bar defined by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. That means when the Common Core is implemented, scores likely will appear to drop.

Rader said board of education and other stakeholder groups plan on making sure the public understands what the Common Core is all about, since it’s likely scores will drop.

“It’s really a very different new set of standards,” Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said Friday.

He said Connecticut doesn’t want to end up like other states where the new assessment tool has been panned by teacher unions or compared to the botched launch of the Affordable Care Act website.

In April, the New York teachers’ union denounced the Common Core and argued that the state did not give them enough time or resources to prepare. Of the 45 states that have adopted the Common Core, New York and Kentucky were the first two states to begin testing students on the material.

The teachers’ union in New York called for a three-year moratorium on using the test to make employment decisions. The exam scores factored into New York’s new teacher evaluation system.

In Connecticut, the new assessment system will be rolled out as the 2012 teacher evaluation system goes into effect. Last year, the legislature delayed implementation of the new teacher evaluation system, giving schools two years to adjust to the new system, which means it will be taking effect the same time the new test is being used.

Connecticut has earmarked about $14.6 million over the next two years to transition to the Common Core. Most, or about $13 million, will be used for professional development and technical assistance.

Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the state Education Department, stressed that the state is looking for financial support from private nonprofit foundations to help pick up part of the tab.

“One of our main priorities has been finding the best ways to support teachers and administrators during this transition,” Donnelly said Friday in a statement.

Under the system approved by the state board of education, standardized tests and other student indicators will make up about 45 percent of a teacher’s performance while the rest will be made up by classroom observation, parent and peer surveys, and mutually agreed upon goals.

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(13) Comments

posted by: Linda12 | December 30, 2013  7:25am

Commentary in Waterbury Republican this weekend:

I was stunned when I read the December 23 headline of your paper, which read “Million-dollar media blitz”.  I don’t ever remember a time when we had to promote the curriculum we were using in our classrooms and I don’t approve of spending one more penny on the media hype.  We’ve had state standards for years. I don’t remember any fancy advertising campaign to promote it or any parents opposing it. But that is all changed. 

I’m thrilled that parents and teachers are speaking out against this corporate reform movement.  Make no mistake about it, most anyone who is in favor of it has something to gain financially from its implementation. There is plenty of taxpayer money to be made, from developing standards to designing tests.  There’s software needed to support all these new education systems and computer hardware required on which to take these tests.  There are stacks of money to be made on this new education infrastructure that will supposedly solve all our problems in education.  Now apparently the media companies need a slice of the taxpayer money.

You need to know that any state that has Race to the Top money must accept these untested federal standards and the high cost testing that accompanies these standards.  The education reformers want full control of education costs and policy funded by taxpayers.  It is likely local boards of education will become non-existent and that our children will attend regional schools.  Say goodbye to the neighborhood school concept in many cities.

We need to step up and say no to spending any more money on Common Core standards. Parents need to know that they can opt out of the Common Core testing by notifying the principal at their child’s school.  Children need to be learning, not field testing software for the federal and state government.

posted by: Linda12 | December 30, 2013  7:30am

Obamacore: you can keep your schools and teachers if you like them, well not really…until they’re set up for failure and then we hand them off to a charter management company with high fees and multiple administrative positions to suck more taxpayer money while producing a few good test takers.

Remember who supported this when it all implodes and it will: our “education” Governor.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | December 30, 2013  7:35am

That SDOE are planning to spend $1M on taxpayer money on PR when schools like Bassick don’t even have a functioning library tells you so much about the warped priorities of this administration when it comes to education. It is NOT about the children and it is NOT about real learning.

posted by: Linda12 | December 30, 2013  9:06am

From a CT dad:

One million dollars to PROMOTE (that is, advertise) a specific educational curriculum? I have never heard the like. I can easily imagine an advertising campaign to market a new kind of cocoa-cola, or a new brand of Nike sneaker; but a Madison Avenue effort to “inform” the public about school curricula? Why, that’s simply absurd. Unless, of course, the Common Core Standards have little to do with real education and are a kind of gimmick to turn over vast sums of money to private companies. Then it all makes sense: if it’s all about providing market opportunities for testing companies and information technology outfits and other “educational services,” then, yes, the CCS would need to be marketed, as no one is interested in buying that smelly old fish! In other words, we are talking “supply-side economics.” Certainly, teachers, students and parents in the main have NOT been demanding a Common Core Curriculum.

The main proponents of this development have been the corporate “reformers” who see it as way of making money and taking further control of the classroom. The CCS is part of the ongoing corporate effort to undo the professional status of teachers, and to make them pure “technicians” of “information.” Professionalism implies autonomy, and that is what the “reformers” object to. They would like to see teachers under the thumb.

Once upon time, Republicans in particular claimed to be against common standards in the name of local autonomy; but now both Republicans and Democrats are onboard for the CCS, for the same reason that Al Capone robbed banks: that’s where the money is!

I had occasion recently to take a close look at the CCS. I found it to be depressing stuff. The standards are conceived along “management” and “economistic” lines. It was as though a bunch of business profs had gotten together to decide upon the perfect school curriculum. The authors of the CCS write that the Standards “provide a consistent, clear understanding of what children are expected to learn… The standards are designed to be relevant to the real world.” And this for me was the giveaway: there isn’t enough in the Standards about the value of the creative imagination.

Perhaps the best education brings children to the “real world,” so that they might also go beyond it, in their hopes, dreams, desires and ideals. In other words, what is wanted in good education is not just adjustment and accommodation but also powerful critical thought, inspiration, enthusiasm for what can’t be seen but only imagined. The Common Core Standards are no good thing precisely because they aim to produce students who will be intellectually unable to criticize the Common Core Standards as biased pedagogy. At the heart of the CC is standardization: this is not a recipe for producing well-rounded individuals or critically minded citizens; it is a model for producing clones and drones. No wonder they have to

posted by: justsayin | December 30, 2013  9:52am

Why? What is the purpose of trying to gather public support? What is next?

posted by: jim black | December 30, 2013  10:10am

Waste money to promote good money thrown at bad?
Why that’s the Obama playbook of coarse. Malloy can’t think for himself.

posted by: Noteworthy | December 30, 2013  11:38am

This is another fine example of suppression of government information - while legal, it stinks. We have the right to know who is seeking state contracts and for how much. In this case, the state is proposing to spend a million dollars to sell us that the dumbed down common core agenda is good for our children, who are barely educated as it is. This program was developed with near zero teacher input as evidenced by the lack of attention to creative writing skill development. It is stunning that the leadership in this broke state of broke ideas, proposes to spend this level of money in secret and its sole purpose is to seduce us with low expectations and more test scores to support those low expectations. This is lame. Happy New Year.

posted by: mmal231294 | December 30, 2013  12:26pm

Its a shame they didn’t blow a million or two to try and convince the State Troopers that the Consolidated dispatching plan was great idea! LOLOLOL

posted by: redlady | December 30, 2013  12:57pm

CT citizens should be asking this: If something is so appealing, what is the need to abuse the taxpayer with another $1M expenditure? Why is the effort displaying signs is secrecy?
This is just one more Election Consequence!

posted by: ocoandasoc | December 30, 2013  5:34pm

The core issues in CT education are funding and control. Until these are solved, things will continue to spiral downward.
CT funding for public education is inadequate and poorly allocated. And a high percentage of the dollars are inefficiently spent or completely wasted. In many CT towns education budgets exceed three–quarters of their town’s residential tax collections. And we wonder why the poorest towns have the worst performing schools? Funding should be State-wide, or at least by two or three State-designated regions. And overall, more dollars need to be spent on public education. But the money must be spent much more intelligently that at present.
There are too many independent Boards of Education, each setting up territorial empires laden with overpaid administrators, redundant infrastructure, and bloated payrolls. School superintendents making $150,000 annually each need assistants making nearly as much, too numerous small local schools need high-paid principals and assistant principals, plus facility services and maintenance. Resources that could be shared are duplicated and then sit idle. We need to abandon our Norman Rockwell school systems and replace them with larger, more efficient state-of-the art facilities. Connecticut’s children don’t live in the same world their grandparents did – why do we think we can educate them in the same way? 
There’ll be a fight to dismantle the local boards of education, but they have outlived their usefulness. Controlled for the most part by the teachers unions they – along with an apathetic populace – are the main reason education costd have skyrocketed. Salaries, working hours, and pensions are out of control.  And much of it has no bearing on the education we provide our kids. Here’s just one example…. In many CT towns the people that clean the private schools and local businesses (we used to call them janitors) receive about $14 an hour for their efforts. But those doing the exact same work for the local board of education receive more than three times that, plus an array of overtime, benefits, and pensions. I’ve personally seen unskilled people secure employment with their local BOE and then act like they’ve won the lottery!
The new PR plan is designed to limit the blowback on the State’s continuing failure to control the discussion on public education. But the million dollars won’t be enough. The teachers union will continue to crush them and anyone else who dares to try and “reform” education and disrupt their con game. They have done too good a job in misleading the public into thinking that their paramount concern is the welfare of our children and reminding BOE members and Democratic State legislators where the money and votes for their reelection come from.
But the PR contract will at least be a way for the administration to reward some patronage-seeking flaks who can then provide donations and pro-bono services to the reelection campaign.

posted by: ASTANVET | December 30, 2013  10:39pm

Spending a million dollars to shove it down our throats is just insult to injury.  Here’s a novel idea… create thinkers - not the re-written history tests of common core.  Encourage critical thinking, and the basics - english, creative writing, mathematics, geography, history.  If they can do these things well - then move on to the ‘health class’, the eastern european feminist poetry classes - but that would be left to the BOE of each town… if any of them have kept their authority…

posted by: redlady | December 31, 2013  10:17am

Posters, you may want to read a CT author’s (Armand Fusco) book on the subject of school corruption, called School Corruption. It can be found on Amazon, I believe.  Armand is a retired teacher and school administrator who discovered that our school systems are being compromised by unintentional (most often) overspending, nepotism, and other taxpayer abuses. Armand has been instrumental in encouraging citizens to form their own school budget audit teams and is willing to work with groups to organize. It is shocking that not very many Nutmeggers know who Armand is or what he is advocating for, especially when we are faced with newsbits like this one.

posted by: brutus2011 | December 31, 2013  1:36pm

brutus2011

“Redlady” is correct re: Armand Fusco and his attempts to call public attention to the realities of public school systems. Also Lydia Segal wrote, “Battling Corruption in Americas Public Schools.”

I think,however, that John Wenders wrote a prescient paper entitled “Pork Barrel Education” in which he posits that public school expenditures have much less to do with the necessary cost of educating students than is popularly presumed. (www.cato.org/publications/commentary/pork-barrel-education)

I became aware of the corruption in our schools as a teacher in New Haven. It is astonishing how the mayor used the school system as a jobs program to further his re-elections while launching a education reform to cover his tracks.

What the public is unaware of is the fact that there is a public school administrative bureaucracy that is mopping up funds before those monies reach the classroom.

I believe the privateers have deduced this deceptive practice and want in on the action.

Think about it. Look around. Go to your school district website and see how many administrators there are who are earning well over six figures.

Ask yourself—should the monies be distributed from the bottom-up (classrooms) or from the top-down (admin salaries, their support staff, consultants, test company contracts, private management contracts)?

Then ask yourself why the teacher’s union managements have not sounded the call to overturn this near-criminal activity?

Teachers are not the enemy.

If there is an enemy, it is the managers, not the teachers.