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More public subsidies for Achievement First to recruit the best and brightest teachers from Bridgeport

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by Jon Pelto from Wait, What

It might be difficult economic times here in Connecticut. Taxes going up, vital services being cut, but low and behold, public funds are flowing ever faster into Achievement First, Inc. the charter school management company co-founded by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor.

Not only is Commissioner Pryor overseeing the process that is allowing Achievement First to expand its schools in Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford, but he is playing the pivotal role in the approval process for new taxpayer-funded charter schools in Connecticut.

The net result is that Achievement First is the fastest growing charter school entity in the state.

Now comes news of even more public funds and support for the company that Pryor helped build as one of its original directors.

The application deadline is quickly approaching for the new Achievement First Residency Program for School Leadership.

The “best and brightest” teachers from Bridgeport, New Haven and Hartford Public Schools are being asked to participate.

According to the program’s recruitment materials, “This full-time, paid residency opportunity will allow talented education reformers to learn and leverage some of the country’s most effective practices to drive breakthrough student achievement.”

Participants will complete two residencies over the course of one academic year, “first at a high-performing Achievement First school and then at a district school with a high-impact principal.”

“Residents will be mentored by an outstanding principal at each school, given specific leadership responsibilities, and provided with focused feedback on their growth and development. Residents will simultaneously receive structured professional development and guidance on change implementation strategy from amazing practitioners.”

The material goes on to claim, “Following the residency year, the intention is to deem Residency Program graduates who meet program requirements and competency standards as placement-ready assistant principals (APs) or principals.”

Despite the unprecedented financial crisis, participants will receive full salary and benefits. In fact, the participants will continue to be employees of the local schools systems so they will continue to retain all district benefits and have a job to fall back on if they aren’t deemed an appropriate fit for promotion.

Professional development programs are hardly unique and are generally very valuable, but in this case, the program is being developed and run through an exclusive district/charter school management agreement that will serve as the one year alternative route to certification for people to become school administrators.

The whole approach is a statement about how Achievement First, Pryor and the other reformers look down on all that “extra” academic training that regular administrators are supposed to be getting before running our schools.

Call this the FAST TRACK to become an education reform school administrator.

The whole notion of diverting the best teachers away from the classroom and into charter school-run “training,” at a time when there aren’t enough staff to even maintain existing programs, let alone enhance efforts to promote quality educational programs, is a farce.

The program is little more than a publicly-funded effort to create a pipeline to recruit and train charter school administrators, paid for by taxpayers of Connecticut and its three poorest cities.

And who is the biggest beneficiary of all?

Who is collecting the funds? Who is coordinating the effort? Who will be siphoning off the graduates?

Achievement First, Inc., the very charter school management company that Stefan Pryor helped to create and lead for the eight years before he became Malloy’s Commissioner of Education.

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