"(McLoughlin) She has become, in my view, the liveliest and most intelligent IB critic in the country." ~ Jay Mathews, education reporter for the Washington Post and author of Supertest; How the International Baccalaureate Can Strengthen Our Schools
IB in Greenwich, CT
Greenwich HS Teachers Say NO to IB!
October 6, 2011 - In a move that should be REQUIRED by any public school district that gets the ridiculous notion to implement IB, a committee formed as a result of the IB controversy earlier this year found that Greenwich HS teachers are not interested in expanding IB into the HS.
There's been a lot of speculation already about who is going to be named interim superintendent after the departure ofSidney Freund.
The name ofRobert Lichtenfeld, the district's human resources director, has been raised publicly, although he says he hasn't applied or been asked to apply for the post.
Regardless of who or how many become candidates for the job, a couple of things are clear.
One, the school system is in disarray. The interim superintendent will have to work to bring it under control so the next permanent leader will be able to take office on some type of solid footing. But that job will be impossible if the back-and-forth carping on theBoard of Educationdoesn't stop.
Two, the agenda for the next year is going to have to be narrow. Focus on what teachers need to effectively educate their students today. The long-term direction of the school system will have to wait.
The board, as it discussed in its last meeting, is right that it must start work on the problem of correcting racial imbalances. But broad policy initiatives, including the expansion of the International Baccalaureate program, should be put on hold. We don't know whether IB will be favored by the next permanent superintendent, so it makes little sense to continue with its implementation this year. (This is a perfect example of the problem with having five superintendents within 12 years: the school system stagnates.)
It's already going to be hard to find a top-notch person to serve as the next superintendent when candidates look at our recent history and wonder why schools chiefs seem so eager to get out of Greenwich.
If the interim superintendent and school board don't work together to achieve some stability, the search will be harder still.
Greenwich Board of Education Update
Kay Wall June 2, 2011
Ms. Sue Rogers, PTA Council president, recently published an editorial in the local media. The main focus of Ms. Roger’s piece is to isolate and pin blame for the Superintendent’s resignation (which breaks his three-year contract) on two board members: “If you can’t work with the rest of the board, step down…”She says, “Our problem is not Sid Freund, it is not IB…”
I disagree.Yes, our school district has two problems, but they are not the two board members.They are the combination of the unprofessional conduct of a Superintendent with his fixation on IB as the panacea for all school district problems, and a bipartisan majority that has rubberstamped everything he (or the prior Superintendent Sternberg) proposed, with little, if any, critical thought.
In addition, the “common denominator of PTA Council,” to use Ms. Roger’s term, is to function as a booster club for this superintendent, which serves to confuse many parents who just want straight answers to factual questions.
Sadly, in her editorial PTAC’s leader is using a classic community organizing model of deception: 1) do NOT focus on the real issue - what education framework is best for our children, IB or something else?
2) Instead, use the politics of personal destruction: target and isolate your opponents, then demonize them repeatedly.
If this succeeds, then we in Greenwich will have “the debate hijacked by the BOE-PTA establishment,” as Lincoln Millstein puts it in his editorial that I have posted below. Mr. Millstein is Senior Vice President at Hearst, which publishes Greenwich Time, among many other newspapers. He is a Greenwich resident.
The only statement in Ms. Roger’s piece with which I agree is: “To the Board of Education: Every resident of Greenwich is watching what you do.” Let’s hope the whole town pays attention to all of the facts and all points of view. Mr. Millstein points out that the BOE-PTA establishment’s “efforts to generate sympathy for” …the Superintendent “garnered only 780 ‘likes’ on Facebook and filled half of the 850-seat GHS auditorium (in a city of 65,000 residents.)” That means many thousands of residents, the vast majority, either disagree with the BOE-PTA “establishment,” or they have not looked closely yet. This is very important.
Now, back to the real issue, which the“BOE-PTA hegemony,” as Mr. Millstein puts it, does not want discussed. Are the IB programmes appropriate for Greenwich Public Schools? The questions surrounding this should be front and center. As an introduction, read IB’s own words:
“International Baccalaureate school curriculum remains committed to changing children’s values so they think globally, rather than in parochial national terms from their own country’s viewpoint.” George Walker, retired IB Director General
Let’s understand what is being said here. Of course, we all want our children to understand the world around them. It’s quite another to push our children into conformity with the one worldview agenda of IB, where thinking “globally” replaces your “own country’s viewpoint.”
I don’t believe that most Greenwich residents, regardless of political affiliation, want our schools or teachers to proselytize our children inanydogma or agenda, let alone a “global” agenda. IB, among other things, seeks to subvert our constitutional principles with United Nations dictates and its “global values.”In other words, I don’t believe most residents want schools that teach our children to turn away from American individual responsibility and national values.
Which is where the demonization of opponents to IB comes in.IB proponents try to sweep the actual academic results using IB, as well as its proselytizing content, under the rug by any means possible.This includes the politics of personal destruction, the silencing of discussion and outright lies.
Let us be thankful that we have at least two Board of Education members who, even under these difficult conditions, are trying to do the right thing by our schools and Town, and analyze this program objectively and with diligence.
Kay Wall, Old Greenwich
Please see Mr. Millstein’s posting below.
Subject: Greenwich Time
May 30, 2011 at 9:05 pm by Lincoln Millstein
Are you as tired as I am of sitting Shiva for the departed superintendent?
It’s time to move on and let the real conversation begin – about the future of our public schools – and doing it without having the debate hijacked by the BOE-PTA establishment.
Let’s remind ourselves that not a single member of those entities were chosen by us – the people. They were either hand-selected or self-selected. And their efforts to generate sympathy for the latter day Professor Harold Hill garnered only 780 “likes” on Facebook and filled half of the 850-seat GHS auditorium (in a city of 65,000 residents).
Worse yet, their efforts to publicly prosecute two BOE members who dared to ask questions did more harm than anyone could imagine to our schools. The establishment hates noise, friction and public dissonance of any sort. But elected officials who mis-read this orchestrated sturm and drang do so at their own peril.
There are many folks like Betty Bonsal of Riverside and others who think Professor Hill’s behavior was unprofessional and disgraceful. I hope, over time, those who truly are interested in the quality of Greenwich schools will prevail over those whose delusional views cloud the discussion.
First, let us agree on the facts. Anyone who is a serious participant in this discourse must educate himself or herself on the state of the union which is not good.
The best place to start is this website devoted to the pursuit of high quality public education in Connecticut. There, you will learn that in the most recent state standardized tests, two of Greenwich’s elementary schools – Dundee and New Leb – failed to out-perform their own 2009 results. Dundee is the “prized school” with the highly vaunted IB curriculum tauted by the current administration. Not a single Greenwich elementary school ranked in the Top 50 schools in outperforming its 2009 test scores.
You will also learn that the average percentage of 10th graders at GHS meeting state goals for reading, writing, arithmetic and science was only 71 percent and that the average percentage of hispanic students at GHS meeting those goals was only 41 percent.
These are the facts facing us like a scar that won’t allow for an easy fix. The BOE-PTA hegemony can manipulate opinion, but they can’t run away from the facts. The sooner we have a real community discussion with a new superintendent who will commit to working with the richest town on the planet to deliver on its promise to children, the sooner we will heal our wounds. Demonizing the few school board members who ask tough questions at a time when we need tough questions is not going to get us there.
Professor Hill is taking his trombone case and leaving town. Let’s hope he leaves quietly.
Lincoln Millstein is a senior vice president of Hearst Newspapers, which owns the Greenwich Time. He is a Greenwich resident. This blog is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Greenwich. The views are that of the writer solely and do not represent the Greenwich Time nor the Hearst Corp.
IB Lynch Mob Shows Up to Defend Quitter Superintendent
May 28, 2011 - TAIB apologizes for being a little slow on posting all of the mayhem happening in Greenwich. But we have compiled the bulk of recent Internet articles on the subject for your perusal. Below this section, we have included Greenwich Board of Education Trustee Marianna Ponns-Cohen's prepared remarks for the May 26th meeting.
The Greenwich Board of Education is forcing on the school system a curriculum that is costly, provides no added benefit to students, doesn’t improve test scores, doesn’t improve college admissions on any level, and takes the system in the completely wrong direction.
Two brave individuals have stood up against this and are outnumbered.They need your help.
As it is known, The International Baccalaureate program has been at the International School at Dundee (ISD) for some 10 years at the elementary school level.The current superintendant, Dr. Sidney Freund, has been rushing the IB program in sneaky and underhanded ways into the rest of the school system without parent’s input and debate.Also, he refuses to produce the test scores from ISD.He knows they are average to poor, yet he still wants to force the IB program on Greenwich.
Marianna Ponns-Cohen and Peter Scherr are the only ones who have had the courage to stand against political pressure to conform with the rest of the board.They refuse to be rubber stamps like others in the past.Dr. Freund, in a huff, has resigned and blamed Marianna and Peter for his actions.
Marianna pointed out that contracts for the IB program add millions of dollars of cost to the system.Since the curriculum is pre-packaged, there is no need in Greenwich for curriculum developers.Freund refuses to acknowledge this would be a wasteful duplication of resources for the public school system.Other school systems that committed to the IB program have since rejected it.Freund refuses to acknowledge and deal with what our town would have to do if we went down the same path.More money wasted.It becomes clear that Dr. Freund wants to install the IB program in all Greenwich public schools no matter what.This is irrational and irresponsible conduct by our school superintendant.
If parents were given a quiz on what the IB program is and involves, they would flunk the quiz.In fact, most members of the Board of Education as well as most teachers would also flunk.That is the problem.The fight over personalities has obscured the real fight over the IB program.So, please come to show support for Marianna and Peter.Support people who will not be arm-twisted by a dictatorial superintendant.
BE THERE:THURSDAY, MAY 26TH, 7 PM, GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM
Any Questions:Please call Cort Wrotnowski, cell: 203-918-0957
February 25, 2011 - The Greenwich Board of Education met at the New Lebanon Elementary School at 7:00 PM sharp on February 24, 2011. The eight member Board was short one member who was unable to attend due to a prior business commitment, but his request to postpone a vote on the controversial expansion of IB in Greenwich was ignored and wouldn't have mattered much anyway. Upon Superintendent Freund's rabid endorsement, the Board approved implementing the MYP at Western Middle School by a vote of 6-1.
The district followed the IB playbook to a 'T', stacking the list of speakers signed up for public comment with PTA mommies who raved about the "wonders" of IB and teachers seeking to stroke the Superintendent's ego (one of them even announced they were nominating Freund for "Superintendent of the Year). Standardized state test results were poo-poo'd as having too much emphasis placed on them. Once again, we heard "rote memorization" being demonized in favor of IB's methodology which creates "critical thinkers". The room was plastered with IB indoctrination posters celebrating "Inquirers", "Risk-taking" and bold statements like "Any activity is good activity!". The word "collectivism" was bandied about loosely, "plethora" was included in comments as though the word had just been discovered and raves about children who "love" school and descriptions by adults of their "excitement" and the excitement of teachers for IB were repeated ad nauseum.
What is important to note (and which will not be featured on the local cable TV station or local papers), is the fact that there were some very respectable opponents who rose to the podium. Unfortunately, due to low battery, TAIB was unable to capture the well spoken AP senior who said IB was unnecessary and a somewhat nervous teacher with a PhD who questioned IB's worth. Below are two of the public speakers:
TAIB readers may want to skip the next video of Superintendent Sidney Freund spouting the usual IB propaganda, but in the interest of fair and balanced reporting, we will show it anyway:
Mr. Anderson is the Chairman of the Board and the individual who signed the letter to IBO on Board stationary without an actual Board vote. It was after this part of the meeting that Mr. Anderson actually said, "Everyone has drunk the Kool-Aid and we can now move forward and put this controversy to bed!" TAIB thinks someone needs to inform Mr. Anderson that the phrase "drink the Kool-Aid" grew out of the actions of the followers of Marxist cult-leader Jim Jones, who all died after drinking Jones' special cyanide laced Kool-Aid. Or was that just a Freudian slip on Mr. Anderson's part?
TAIB's hat must be tipped to the lone brave Trustee who was publicly attacked by one snarling PTA mommy who accused her of inundating the Superintendent with "180 e-mails". Marianna Ponns Cohen did ask questions. She was an "inquirer". Isn't that something IB is supposed to celebrate? But as we have learned, only the children forced to suffer IB can be inquirers. Adults must never question IB and if they do, they must be Delphi'd!
The following video pretty much sums up the evening. TAIB thinks Freund's treatment of Cohen is disgraceful. If he couldn't figure out what Cohen meant by the "unwinding" of IB costs back to the inception of the Dundee school, well, he doesn't deserve to be a Superintendent.
Marianna, we are proud of you for questioning with boldness, showing courage in the face of ridicule and for doing your job as an elected representative. Perhaps ten years from now, the taxpayers of Greenwich will say, "What happened to our schools? Why do they suck so badly? Why are our taxes so high? Why aren't our kids getting into their first choice colleges?" And when they do, Marianna can ask, "Where were you when I needed you?"
Greenwich is a lost cause. Freund will implement IB in the HS and destroy the current selection of over 20 AP courses. IBO can add a *star* to its list of authorized World Schools for successfully infiltrating this toney district in the blue state of Connecticut.
What's the Hurry?
February 18, 2011 - The Greenwich Connecticut Public School District is of moderate size, boasting 11 elementary schools, three Middle Schools and one High School. The total student population is approximately 8,800 students. Demographics range from wildly wealthy to desperately poor. Connecticut has long been a traditionally blue state.
The IB private marketing machine continues to steamroll on, making millions of dollars off taxpayers for its managers. The IB salespeople have now marked the public schools of Greenwich, CT. looking for deep pockets. Superintendent Sidney Freund, former Superintendent from Dobbs Ferry, NY, and some members of the Board of Education are rushing to push a vote to expand the uber-expensive International Baccalaureate program(me) into one of its three Middle Schools and its only High School.
One member of the Greenwich Board of Education, Marianna Ponns Cohen, says, "Not so fast!" Cohen, an attorney, is not pleased with the lack of public discussion, lack of empirical evidence that IB will actually improve Greenwich schools, and the fact that the Superintendent proceeded with IB implementation without first requesting and obtaining the Board's approval and vote.
Now, the school administration and Board majority is calling for a rushed Board vote to provide cover for the Superintendent's stealth tactics on Thursday, February 24, 2011. There have been a flurry of editorials, letters to the editor and a desperate attempt by the school administration to flood parents with the usual glossy IB marketing touting the trumped up benefits of IB. TAIB will feature all related articles and upcoming meetings on this page. As this controversy progresses, the timeline of events can be read from earliest at the bottom of the page, to most recent below this section. You know that IBO will leverage Greenwich falling for IB to sell its glossy packaged programs to other unsuspecting school districts, so this controversy is an important one to follow.
Who Supports IB and Why:No IB Vote Now
The Greenwich Board of Education may vote on February 24 to approve a major expansion of the International Baccalaureate (IB) programs in Greenwich Public Schools.Why is this being rushed through by the Superintendent and Board leadership without proper public notice, formal public input and rigorous Board review?
Who Wants IB?
IB is a set of franchised teaching method/curriculum programs developed by a foreign-based entity, the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO), accountable to no one.
The head of the Greenwich teachers’ union has publicly expressed support for IB expansion in Greenwich Public Schools.The Superintendent is an enthusiastic IB proponent from his New York days, as are his administrators.Though asked by Board members, the Superintendent has refused to look into charter school alternatives or into making our existing curriculum more international or rigorous, if that’s a goal.
What is the common thread?The Superintendent, together with teacher and administrative union employees, share a common interest in promoting the public education bureaucracy and agendas.
Adults vs. Children: Follow the Money
There are two major Greenwich education unions:for teachers and administrators.Education unions, like other unions, support that which benefits their memberships.If, for example, a “reform” like IB helps reduce the unions’ accountability for student outcomes, when nationally there is a great push to make education unions more accountable, then that’s their priority.The education unions’ priorities are to support their membership’s interests, oftentimes in conflict with Greenwich students’ best interests.
Education “reforms” inevitably mean “throwing significantly more money” at the problem.Look at any school budget during times of “reform,” and you will see millions of additional dollars spent.
More teachers and administrators are hired, then all require additional training, thus more time is taken away from classroom teaching.Money is spent on more substitutes, when research repeatedly shows they have a detrimental effect on student learning.Yet, we are always told that these “reforms” are for the good of our children, and that their purpose and focus is on “raising student achievement.”
This is not to blame the unions or our teachers.The unions’ job is to promote members’ interests.
But, let’s look at the recent track record of our children in Greenwich Public Schools.We have spent millions of dollars and untold man-hours on administrator and teacher training, curriculum alignment and coordination, especially in the past four years.
Has it paid off?In 2010, Greenwich ranked 46thout of 166 Connecticut school districts as measured by the Connecticut Department of Education’s approved tests.Objective measures of student outcomes show declines overall for several consecutive years in core academic subjects.
Reforms Result in Decreased Accountability
Historically, education “reforms” have allowed union educators to absolve themselves of responsibility for student results.First, “reforms” change testing metrics and programs, thereby making comparisons over time more difficult.
Second, when you shift the focus to outside programs, such as IB, educators can blame any undesired results as the fault of the outside programs, or the hiccups of their implementation.
Third, in the case of IB “reform,” there is a very real criticism that IB’s focus is on questionable “values” (United Nations driven, not American) and teaching core academic subjects through this values prism.For generations, student outcomeshave been objectively measured with SAT and AP tests.How does one measure IB’s promoted “values”?New IB tests using value-based criteria are sent abroad for scoring.
Further, IB supporters try to claim that IB is not curriculum.If it isn’t curriculum, why does IB have its own tests?You don’t test students on“frameworks” and “ways of teaching.”You test students on curriculum knowledge.
In summary, education unions’ pushback to the national call for accountability is to support any reform, like IB, that makes accountability more difficult to measure.
IB: Massive, Expensive “Reforms” with No Proof
Undoubtedly, IB would involve the most massive and expensive secondary school education “reforms” to date in Greenwich.Yet, incredibly, there has been no rigorous Board examination of IB’s implications and costs. For example, have they researched the many schools that have stopped their IB programs?Have they determined whether American colleges have vetted IB tests as AP does?(AP tests are normed against freshman 101 courses.) Have they prepared an itemization of all costs involved over time?
There are many known benefits to be reaped for administrators and teachers - the adults.
What about the children?Does IB produce the results it says it does?Where is the proof?The Superintendent and Board have not educated us about the merits of IB for our children, except in anecdotal terms and glossy statements from IB “marketing” (IB’s word) information.The school district has already faced much upheaval with multiple initiatives under each of the last three Superintendents.Is IB really what is needed?There is little room for error at this point.
The Board of Education should reflect the entire community’s will, not the Superintendent’s or any one constituency’s.This is not about politics.It’s about all Greenwich residents expecting the best education system for their Town.This also is about the Board following its own protocol, requiring due diligence by elected Board members on behalf of Greenwich residents.
Please contact Board members.Attend the February 24thBoard meeting at 7:00 pm at New Lebanon School to speak out – even if it is only a sentence or two.There should be no rushed vote to expand IB in our schools.
Kay Wall, Old Greenwich February 2011
02/20/11 - Readers often ask TAIB where we get our news from. We like to stay current with any reference to IB anywhere in the world via Google alerts. Sometimes we merely report the news, other times we make the news. Congratulations Greenwich on making the Sunday alerts:
I read the opinion column "School board not sharing the story of IB" (Feb. 11) written byBob Horton.
Mr. Horton raises a very good question early in his column. In reference to the International Baccalaureate program, he asks: Does it work?
The school district held IB presentations atWestern Middle Schoolin January 2010, October 2010, and January 2011; I attended all three sessions. At the first presentation, I asked Mr. Horton's question in my own way: If the IB program is so good, are they using it in Scarsdale, Chappaqua, New Canaan, Darien, and Westport?
The district's reply: I don't know.
At the second meeting, a WMS faculty member stated that in the fall of 2009 some faculty members of WMS visited about four middle schools outside of Greenwich that currently use the IB program. The purpose of the visits was to aid in their evaluation of the IB program. One of the IB middle schools visited was located in New Haven.
The presenter was then asked how the IB program affected theNew Haven school's Connecticut Mastery Test scores? The presenter's response: I don't know.
Mr. Horton's question is simple and important. It must be answered in an honest and measurable way that is easily understood by all concerned. After that task is complete, I have about three or four dozen follow-up questions.