School Board Extends Vallas’ Contract

Paul Vallas
Paul Vallas

From Linda Conner Lambeck, CT Post:

The state-appointed school board voted Monday to extend the contract of Interim School Superintendent Paul Vallas through the 2012-13 school year.

The decision came after the board listened to nearly two dozen speakers, some who want Vallas to stay even longer and others who said the district would be better off without him.

“Remember where we were a year ago? As a parent in this city, for the first time I feel we are trying to make progress,” said James Cloud, who credited Vallas with putting textbooks back in the school.

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  1. What has he ‘improved’ that would warrant a contract extension? All I have seen so far is he has hired a bunch of his cronies from out of state and has completely dismantled all of the programs that provide educational services to the special-needs students.

  2. Yes there are textbooks in every classroom–standardized throughout the district. But will these textbooks be discarded in a year or two, even though the district will still be paying for them? I don’t know if Vallas realizes this: if the state education department comes in and pulls students’ IEPs to audit those IEPs, and the state finds the district is not in compliance with the IEPs (the IEP is a legal document which spells out how much of what services that special-needs student is to receive), the district will be fined big $$$. Those fines will negate any savings Vallas is trying to achieve. An IEP is an Individualized Educational Plan, required by the IDEA act. And a special-needs student can stay in school until age 21!

  3. I read with interest the recent article in the CT Post regarding the end of the year test scores. I accidentally found my test results in my mailbox well after school dismissed on the last day of school. Many teachers in my building were unaware they were even there.
    In the CT Post article, Kase points out the test was based on the new Common Core Standards. CT will not be testing the new Common Core standards until 2015. Until then we will still be giving the CMT and CAPT Tests. Bridgeport’s curriculum has done very little to incorporate the new Common Core standards. As many know, there is a huge difference between the standards we are operating under now and the new Common Core. The Common Core is very rigorous. Many topics and skills are being moved down grades. Some of what was being taught in fifth grade math will now be in the third and fourth grades. Moving from the curriculum and standards we have in place now to the Common Core is like going from crawling to running the New York Marathon overnight. So to give students a test based on Common Core at the end of the year was cruel and unusual punishment.
    Kase goes on to say in the article that “Most fifth-graders knew basic math facts, but none could answer the questions that dealt with telling time. And most in the lower grades had trouble with estimation.”
    As I am a fifth-grade teacher in Bridgeport, and have my test results in front of me I can completely say that is not a true statement.
    As a matter of fact, 10 of my students scored at basic or above on questions dealing with telling time. According to the results, there were only four questions on the test at fifth grade dealing with time. Some of my students scored 100% on these four questions, Others got three out of four of the questions correct. So I must wonder what data Kase was looking at.

    1. barney,
      Good to hear from you again. I have missed your comments from the education scene recently.

      You may be the first on this site to reference the standard core curriculum as a national baseline that has been moving forward in recent years. 45 or more states have adopted Common Core State Standards (CCSS, including CT in July, 2010) that involve language arts and math in terms of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards are part of CCSS that provide appropriate benchmarks to systems for measurement. Knowledge and skills are defined for K-12 so a high school degree indicates an ability to succeed in college or the next educational level. There is rigorous content and expectation of the application of high-order skills to that content. Achievement is evidence based …

      So the City of Bridgeport may be behind in hearing about this (at least on OIB) and adjusting to it pre-Vallas. However, if CCSS type testing lets the administration see where students and teachers were at the end of the year, it seems to me September will arrive with more realism about what can be done, must be done, and what resources are necessary additionally to apply to the task.

      Congratulations to you and your class on your students’ apparently superior results relative to what was announced in the CT Post article. Perhaps Dr. Kase was misquoted or actually was referencing something else. But what you discovered from your class may indicate your class with your assistance was making superior progress. Across the system data was returned more rapidly than CMT, appropriate to upcoming CCSS, and perhaps helpful in seeing where students as well as where their teachers are at this moment in time. That would seem to be worthwhile minimally for planning purposes and for professional instruction as well.
      Time will tell.

      1. John,
        Any data I have on students is useful. I was one of the lucky ones and actually collected my data before exiting for the summer. I am also very fortunate I will be looping with my class and will have them as sixth graders. So I value the data. Many teachers will not see the data until late August, when the students are no longer theirs and have moved on to a new grade.
        However, the data is only as valid as the tool used to gather it. This test was greatly flawed. I would not expect a 16 year old to take a driving test without first having lessons and practice driving on the road. What we did to the students is just that. We tested students on material that was not taught, much more rigorous, and tested in a different manner than what they were use to. That is just not fair to the students.
        As a teacher, I’ll own the results. I will use the data, flawed and all to help improve instruction. I will use the data to make flexible groups and all the things many good Bridgeport teachers do. But I object to using the students as guinea pigs for Vallas and his associates.
        The district for years have been using a quarterly online testing program in math and reading. The results are immediate. All grades 3-8 take the tests four times a year. Classroom teachers have a four-day window to complete the test. It involves multiple-choice questions as well as open-ended questions. It mirrors the CMT. The results are available immediately. All classroom teachers have direct access to the results as do coaches and administration. The program provides 11 different reports including one called multiple choice question skill. This report to me is extremely valuable, because you can surmise what the students were thinking. For example there was a third-grade question that asked what is the product of 3 and 7? 96% of third graders got it wrong. Had I just gotten a report that stated 4% mastered that question, one might think third graders need to learn their multiplication tables. However, having access to the above-mentioned report, I discovered 96% of the students answered 10. I quickly learned it was not a computation error, as one might have been led to believe, but rather a vocabulary issue. Once the word product became an everyday vocabulary word, 96% of students got the question correct. To me this is much more valuable than a colorful printout Vallas and his team provided me with.
        I have a five-page color report (cost of printing???). Oh how pretty it is. All the red (below basic), orange (basic), yellow (proficient), light green (goal), kelly green (advanced) colors make an attractive report. But since I don’t have a copy of the test, I don’t have a copy of the multiple-choice answers, and I don’t have a copy of the breakdown of how my students answered, the data has limited value. What I do know is my students did horrible on Equivalent Fractions, decimals and percents. Now what? Do I reteach all of that? I think that would be a waste of time. Where did my students fail? Was it equivalent fractions? If so, was there a pattern of mistakes? Was it with denominators over a certain number? Maybe they did fine on that and it was percents. Was it converting a fraction to a percentage? Was it a decimal to a percentage? Was it a percentage to a decimal? Oh so many questions I have. If we were using the online testing program, I could see exactly what went wrong. I could see the question, the answers and the percentage of students who picked each answer. I could pinpoint with a few clicks of a mouse the exact issues, and begin to formulate a fix. Vallas has given me nothing more than there were four questions that dealt with fractions, decimals and percents and clearly my kids screwed it up. I am no better equipped to address this deficit than I was before.
        So we sacrificed a very valuable tool for a costly colorful printout that is not all that helpful.
        The question I have is WHY???

        1. barney,
          Thanks for all the specifics as well as the mention of the Common Core State Standards. I had not heard anyone mention the four tests per year geared to the CMT that produced prompt results previously. That’s another contribution to understanding of system resources, practices and processes. Too many folks in my opinion have few facts about the state of the teacher in the classroom in this time of national, state and local system changes. I am learning and willing to learn. Thanks for your help.

          Since you are in a minority of teachers who have looked at the results and processed your thoughts and feelings in this OIB contribution, will you send that to department, administrative, and math colleagues to see their thoughts well before the 2013 year opens? Feedback is very necessary especially in times of change. Preparation for the new year is ongoing I hear. Time will tell.

          1. John,
            I would be more than happy to get feedback from the math and reading departments, my administrators and fellow teachers. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll get any. The math department was run by a very capable man by the name of Dr. Rosa. I actually worked for him briefly this year before my job was eliminated. He is now an AP at Central. The science director now runs science and math. Certainly a job bigger than one person can handle. Reading was led by a Vicki Egri. She is now an AP at Marin. Although if you look at the website she is still listed as director of reading. I am not sure who is in charge of reading this year. One would think a classroom teacher would know. Even so, whoever is running the departments right now has their hands full with the delivery of a new math and reading program. All materials have to be accounted for and distributed to all locations. Not an easy job. There are also numerous summer programs they will be monitoring. My admin is closing one school building, moving to a new one, setting up the new place and monitoring numerous programs at the new location. Add in the fact most admins take several weeks off in the summer, it is difficult to talk to anyone.
            Right now quite honestly my time is spent on looking over two new programs I will be expected to implement in my classroom day one of school. Training will not be provided until after school begins. So I have a lot of work to do on my own.
            The district did provide us with a two-hour overview for the reading program with an expert from the publisher and the same for the math program. Unfortunately, the “experts” could not answer any of my questions. The kept telling me it was only an overview, not a training session.
            The ONLY thing that was insightful was they told me Vallas brought both programs into Philly and Chicago. But hey, perspective is 50% of the battle.
            The end of the year testing was a joke. Proven by the fact they were not used for anything Vallas claimed they would be used for. He is a frequent flier with this company, and they handed out the results after the majority of teachers were gone. He used a test that was not valid and is based on the two programs he purchased. At the end of next year we will take the test again, and of course the results will be better because we will have taught the programs for a year. Vallas will then claim to be the savior and say “look, our scores went up.”

  4. His contract should be Null&Void after the September Election.
    Any and all changes to the BOE are illegal and without standing.
    Just ask the CT Supreme Court.

    1. I don’t recall any constraints on the appointed board from the court decision. Perhaps the litigants should have requested same or can still appeal to court to stop the appointed board from passing lame-duck contracts, etc.

  5. Vallas thinking to himself; “Hmmm … Fire people and get paid a lotta money … This is like taking candy from a baby … Raises all around!!!”


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