School Chief Candidate, Now In Trouble, Once Rode High On National School-Reform Tide
Ohanian Note: In a 2004 NPR interview New Leaders CEO Jonathan Schnur explained that if you can lead an Army unit in Iraq, you can turn around a failing school in New York City.
From September 2008 to June 2009, Jon Schnur,
Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of New Leaders for New Schools, was on leave from New Leaders for New Schools, serving as an advisor to Barack Obama's Presidential campaign, a member of the Presidential Transition Team, and a Senior Advisor to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Terrence P. Carter's bio for the federally funded National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality not only indicated that he had a Ph.D. from Stanford, it mentioned post-doctoral work at the Wharton School of business and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.
My favorite line was from the Nebraska-based "search" firm McPherson & Jacobson who recommended Carter. Among his accomplishments, they say:
So New London hired headhunters who don't know the difference between STEM and STEAM.
Created a high school where students: Focus on hardocre STEAM skills.
Jon Lender noted some of their other flaws.
When a publisher asks for a book blurb, they also ask how the individual wants to be identified. Take a look at the Carter blurb for Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement:
The Common Core State Standards are here and, as with any new initiative, there are the inevitable questions and concerns, debate and discontent. Pathways to the Common Core does not take sides; rather, the authors acknowledge the range of opinions swarming around the CCSS and wisely focus their energy on making sense of the standards. They provide a clear examination of what is and isn t stated and then invite us to seize this opportunity to reflect on our practice and to become co-constructors of the -- Terrence P. Carter, Ph.D., Curriculum & Instruction Department, Academy for Urban School Leadership, National Teachers Academy, ChicagoCarter is scheduled to receive a Ph.D. in August 2014. If they ever release his dissertation to the public, plenty of people will be looking for plagiarism.
by Jon Lender
Terrence P. Carter's chances of becoming New London's superintendent of schools seem remote, now that newspaper disclosures have sparked an investigation into whether he misrepresented his education credentials in past years and copied others' published writings in his 2014 job application.
But it wasn't so long ago that the onetime Chicago school principal was being hailed by school-reform advocates as a model for a national new wave of education administrators.
To fully understand the Carter episode, it helps to look at him in the context of a national battle over non-traditional school-reform efforts. The high praise that he received from influential voices in recent years sounds almost ironic now -- as New London's school board has its law firm conducting an investigation that could send him packing.
"Terrence Carter represents a new breed of principals who entered the profession from business through an excellent principal training program called New Leaders for New Schools. The program, which operates in Chicago and five other cities and is about to add two more, imposes higher expectations on principals," the Chicago Tribune said in an editorial Feb. 4, 2007.
Carter then was principal of Clara Barton Elementary School, in a poor Chicago neighborhood, after receiving training at New Leaders, a national non-profit school-reform group co-founded by Jonathan Schnur, a former Clinton White House staffer and Obama campaign adviser.
Carter's standing in the school-reform movement was such that in 2009 he accompanied Schnur to a presentation at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The topic was New Leaders' partnership with Chicago in the "turnaround" of several low-performing inner-city schools.
"New leaders like Terry" have made "dramatic gains" in student performance, Schnur said in a presentation that helped win an "Innovations in American Government" award from the Kennedy School's Ash Center for the New Leaders-Chicago schools initiative.
"Terry for example -- he didn't spend 15 years as an assistant principal, but he was a chief learning officer at a Fortune 500 company working with and managing adults, and a former teacher, and brought that blend of skills to bear," Schnur said in remarks still watchable on YouTube (http://youtu.be/sHjWtePruMU).
"We first understood that there were individual schools and classrooms ... where kids ... in poverty, kids of color, kids who'd been underserved educationally, were achieving high levels.... But there weren't many," Schnur said. "And in every one of those cases there was a principal [who] had . . . high expectations, who was a strong instructional leader, who could lead adults [and] engage the community."
'Lean On Me'
Carter fit that mold, according to Schnur.
Carter told the Harvard audience: "Those of you that have ever seen the movie 'Lean on Me,' [about] Joe Clark -- the school that I was assigned to was very much similar to that," he said. "It was a bastion of discipline and behavior problems [and] low performing test scores." Those scores turned around dramatically in three years, he said.
The Obama administration has been receptive to school-reform efforts by groups like New Leaders. Obama appointed his fellow Illinois native, Arne Duncan, as secretary of education after Duncan ran the Chicago schools, cooperating with school reformers and engineering oft-controversial school "turnaround" projects where "new breed" principals were inserted.
Chicago was an early battleground in what's become a national controversy between traditional educators and teacher unions, on one side, and, reform activists such as New Leaders and charter school operators on the other. That fight is playing out in Connecticut, where Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy has appointed a charter school co-founder, Stefan Pryor, as a state education commissioner who supports turnaround efforts in low-performing schools.
Skeptics about such efforts in Connecticut see more in the Carter controversy than just one candidate whose credentials and character have been questioned.
"This is how the pro-privatization, big-philanthropy-funded networks and organizations tend to work. They pass their own people along and up, greasing rails and plumping resumes as they go. And the main criteria for 'success' often seems not to be real leadership characteristics, so much as willingness to be a good soldier when it comes to pushing forward a particular reform agenda," said Lauren Anderson, an assistant professor of education at Connecticut College in New London.
"Certainly, it should worry people when these are the same groups arguing for loosening licensure and deregulating educator preparation," Anderson said. "I mean, this candidate is someone that these groups vetted and held up as an exemplar, someone who has been on the receiving end of their 'coaching' and 'mentoring.' ... What's their explanation for how this all came to pass?"
Anderson spoke against Carter's hiring at a July 24 meeting in New London when the school board put off a scheduled vote to approve a contract for Carter -- and instead instructed its legal counsel, Shipman & Goodwin in Hartford, to look into newspaper disclosures including the fact that Carter had used the titles Dr. and Ph.D. for years without holding a degree from an accredited university.
Other newspaper revelations: he filed for bankruptcy twice; his application essay included long passages identical with other educators' writings on the Internet; a national research organization released a copy of a bio that it says Carter submitted in 2011 with the claim that he had a Ph.D. from Stanford University, which Stanford says he does not; and he got a Ph.D. in 1996 from "Lexington University" -- which doesn't have a campus and had a website offering degrees for several hundred dollars with the motto "Order Now, Graduate Today!"
Carter met in closed session with the school board on July 24, and said afterward that he did nothing wrong, never misrepresented his credentials to anyone now or in the past, and still wanted the job.
He has declined comment on specifics -- such as the claim to a Stanford Ph.D. in the bio that the American Institutes for Research said it received from him in advance of a scheduled 2011 speaking engagement. But his lawyer, William McCoy of New London, said in recent days that "we're prepared to cooperate" with the school board's investigators "whenever we're asked the questions."
Carter had been selected by the school board in June, with Pryor's endorsement, to begin running the troubled New London school system starting Aug. 1. At the time, he was the toast of New London and, in comments quoted by the Day newspaper, he invoked the name of Duncan, Obama's national education secretary.
The story noted that the Chicago-based Academy for Urban School Leadership -- the education-reform group he'd been working for since leaving his principal's job in 2010 -- had been praised by Duncan and Rahm Emanuel, the former Obama chief of staff who now is mayor of Chicago. Carter said in the story that back in Chicago a decade ago, Duncan, then running the Chicago schools, had handpicked him from the New Leaders training program for school administrators.
"He saw my presentation and said, 'I need this guy in Chicago,'" Carter said in the Day article.
Duncan's deputy press secretary declined a Courant request Thursday an interview with the national school chief or a statement about Carter.
Carter's current problems with newspaper stories started with a Courant report on July 18 about his repeated use of Dr. and Ph.D. with his name, and his unaccredited degree from Lexington. The Day on July 29 reported that parts of Carter's job application essay were identical with language in Internet articles.
The group New Leaders had posted a note congratulating Carter on its Facebook page in June, when his selection by New London was announced. It's been removed. "We did post a congratulations to Facebook to Terrence Carter on his potential appointment when that was originally reported in local press. Once it was reported in local press that Terrence's appointment was delayed, the message became inaccurate, and so was removed," Benjamin Fenton, the group's other co-founder, and chief strategy officer, said in an email Friday.
On the issue of licensure and certification, Fenton said that "all candidates who successfully complete the New Leaders program" -- including Carter -- "are fully certified to be principals in their respective states, and must meet all requirements without exception for principal certification as well as demonstrate all of the required competencies expected by the New Leaders program."
Schnur, the New Leaders co-founder and former CEO who spoke at Harvard with Carter in 2009, declined comment Thursday.
Meanwhile, Carter awaits the outcome of the New London inquiry, which is expected to wrap up in a couple of weeks to permit a final board decision within 30 days of the July 24 meeting.
Carter's lawyer, McCoy, was asked if he thinks his client has any prospect of ever signing a contract. "I think the difficulty at this point in time is whether or not he could successfully work in this atmosphere," he said. But he added that Carter is willing to negotiate "to get a resolution to this" and still wants the job.
Anderson, however, said: "I cannot imagine a situation in which this candidate now becomes the superintendent. And at this juncture, like a lot of people who care deeply about New London, I'm more concerned with the process -- how it went awry, what role the state played, and how the community moves forward from here."
Jon Lender is a reporter on The Courant's investigative desk, with a focus on government and politics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-241-6524, or c/o The Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115 and find him on Twitter@jonlender. — Jon Lender