Is CEA’s Education Commissioner Pick Good for Connecticut Students?

Connecticut Education Association’s (CEA) Executive Director Mark Waxenberg told the New Haven Register last Wednesday that he thinks “a lots going to depend on the new commissioner.”

He’s right. A lot will depend on the new education commissioner.

The direction of the state’s education system, for example, whether teachers will be rewarded for ability and achievement and most importantly, whether our children will be prepared to compete when they graduate.

That’s why it’s troubling that the CEA—and more recently the AFT— is backing former New London Superintendent Christopher Clouet as their pick for education commissioner.

Union leadership may be singing his praises as a “progressive” superintendent, possessing “all the prerequisites necessary” for their endorsement, but his record isn’t quite as sparkling as the union wants us to believe.

For one, not everyone in the schools districts he’s left behind think fondly of him. Certainly not in White Plains, NY, where Clouet broke his contract to take a more lucrative offer in nearby Tarrytown.

Here are excerpts from some of the more interesting comments about Clouet I’ve found while researching the commissioner candidate:

Why the move? wow – a failed Supt!!!!

Can’t make it in New London, can’t make it in White Plains – now he is going to try another school system? Any employee who moves around so much is suspect – no loyalty, no guts, no ability to stick it out – NO CONFIDENCE!!!!

Here’s another one from the same White Plains article:

Dan, for the sake of White Plains, congratulate Tarrytown on their decision. After all, what leader, in good conscience, can make such fundamental structural changes that affect so many families in this city, eliminating decades-old middle school choice, ramrodding a sixth grade academy through a stacked committee using cherry-picked research, changing the entire elementary school administration in only three years, while he simultaneously sends out resumes looking for his next opportunity?

Much more troubling and closer to home, during Clouet’s tenure as superintendent of New London Schools, from 2004 through 2009, CMT scores plummeted.

While he was superintendent the percentage of third graders reading on grade level dropped from 30 percent in 2005 to 16.7 percent in 2009, the year Clouet left the district.

In fact, according to a 2008 ConnCAN district “report card” only 16 percent of the 3,000 students attending New London schools met grade level goals.

That means four years after Clouet took the helm of New London Schools, only 480 students met grade level goals in the entire district.

This is who the union wants to run all of Connecticut schools?

While one could argue that a myriad of factors affect student achievement, here’s the problem with that theory: Students were doing better before Clout came to the district and after he left.

For example—remember New London’s third graders. Well, two years after Clouet left the district for White Plains, NY, more than 40 percent of third graders scored proficient on the CMTs. That’s a 23 percent jump in two years

You’d think this would raise red flags for those supporting Clouet’s bid, but perhaps that’s asking too much, because, of course bolstering student achievement isn’t one of the “prerequisites” the CEA is looking for in a new commissioner.



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