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The Day Connecticut–No retreat from improving education


In calling for a moratorium on the implementation of clearer and more stringent academic standards in our public schools, Republican leaders in the state General Assembly sought to exploit for political advantage the understandable anxieties of parents and teachers. The legislature should soundly reject their call to embrace educational mediocrity.

The politics are clear enough. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, a Fairfield Republican, is running for governor. Unfortunately for him, a recent Quinnipiac poll showed his candidacy remains a well-kept secret, with 3 percent of Republicans pointing to him as their preferred candidate.

Sen. McKinney has tried to gain some attention in calling for the resignation of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. The justification appears to be that the ambitious education reform initiatives sought by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and endorsed by the legislature have not rolled out flawlessly in the first two years of implementation.

Essentially, in attacking education reform efforts, Sen. McKinney sees an opportunity to try to undercut one of Malloy’s major achievements. Over in the House, Sen. McKinney’s partner in political opportunity, Minority Leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk, arranged last Wednesday’s Education Committee public hearing on the bill that would block implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

There is a relatively small but deeply dedicated and vocal group who oppose Common Core and see all sorts of conspiratorial and nefarious motives behind its implementation. They turned out for the hearing, which lasted 12 hours. The truth is, Common Core is about improving education, not selling standardized tests or indoctrinating students, a couple of the leading conspiracy theories.

Connecticut is among 45 states to adopt the Common Core standards for mathematics and English. The more stringent standards will challenge teachers and students, requiring critical and analytical thought. They provide uniform benchmarks intended to ensure that students who graduate from the nation’s high schools are ready for higher education and the technologically challenging jobs that will gain increasing prominence in the global economy.Read More »

CBS Connecticut–John Rowland with Jeffrey Villar


Listen to John Rowland interview CCER’s Executive Director, Jeffrey Villar.

 John Rowland with Jeffrey Villarspeakericon

The Common Core Misinformation Campaign


By: Jeffrey Villar

As a parent, former superintendent, professional educator for the past two decades, and a Connecticut citizen–I am alarmed by the misinformation campaign that has been perpetuated about Common Core in our state.
It’s obvious that our academic standards have been too low for too long. One third of low-income students fail to graduate high school in four years. Of those students who do graduate, 66% are not college- or career-ready. One in five freshmen in college needs to take remediation courses before being allowed to enroll in regular college courses. If we want the system to improve, it’s time to shake things up–now. There’s no time for delay.
Below, is a comparison of some myths and facts about the Common Core. We’ve provided you with sourcing to set the record straight. You can also find a link to my written testimony before the education committee about the process of Common Core’s adoption in 2010 and the need to proceed with timely implementation today. 

Myth #1: The Connecticut State Department of Education is solely responsible for implementing the Common Core.

Fact: The State Department of Education and local school districts are responsible for distinct aspects of implementing the Common Core. The State Department of Education is responsible for setting the standards and providing districts with technical assistance and training on those standards. Public school districts are responsible for writing and implementing their own curriculum aligned to those standards for each grade level. Connecticut is a “local control” state, which grants to local and regional boards of education the authority to set curriculum standards and the instructional programs in their schools. The standards, adopted in 2010, will provide direction to local curriculum committees as they develop grade-by-grade and course level curriculum.

 Myth #2: Common Core is an unfunded and unnecessary mandate.

Fact: Establishing state standards for education is not a new idea; Connecticut has had standards for a long time, and they have been revised regularly. (See a 2002 example here.) This is because standards need to be revised and updated over time, rather than remaining stagnant.

 However, while state standards set expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed, educators still decide how these standards are to be met. School administrators are responsible for keeping school curriculums up-to-date in a timely manner. (Regs. Conn. State Board of Education §10-145d-400b(b)(13)). Because this is something that should already have been happening in our schools, it isn’t fair to say the costs associated with updating curriculums is an “extra” cost caused by the Common Core.

 It is true that Common Core and Smarter Balanced (SBAC) assessments will require some schools to add additional technology to their buildings. However, schools should already be making the types of technology and infrastructure upgrades that are required in order to engage students in 21st century learning.Read More »

CT News Junkie–Mixed Feelings Offered at Public Hearing on Common Core


by Christine Stuart

Officials, lawmakers, parents, and students expressed mixed feelings Wednesday about whether the state should delay implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Some feel the public uproar over the issue is related to misinformation about the Common Core. The Common Core, according to education officials, is neither a curriculum or an assessment tool.

The Common Core is a set of standards educators must use to develop a curriculum at the local level and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test is what will be used to evaluate students’ performance.

For two years, the results of those tests won’t be tied to teacher evaluations, Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor told the Education Committee on Wednesday.

Sitting behind Pryor, who was the first person to speak at the public hearing, were parents wearing red T-shirts that read, “Stop the Common Core In CT.”

Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, told state Education Board Chairman Allan B. Taylor that the reason he believes everyone is suddenly upset about the standards is “the lack of public process.”

He said he keeps hearing there was involvement from the public and teachers, but can’t find any evidence.

“I speak with people at CEA [Connecticut Education Association] who tell me there were no Connecticut teachers who participated in the drafting of the Common Core Standards,” Bolinsky said. “I’m not certain which end of this to believe.”

Taylor said he doesn’t believe there were any Connecticut teachers on the national drafting committee for the standards and he doesn’t believe there was any parental involvement in developing them.

“As the state gave feedback, there was consultation going on between the state Department of Education staff and people outside the department,” Taylor said. “. . .They are very good standards and that’s the bottom line.”

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, who used a rare parliamentary procedure to get the bill raised for a public hearing, said the anxiety has been heightened and support for the standards has been diminished.

“When your constituents . . . parents, teachers, students have the level of anxiety all of us are hearing about, it is our job to get involved,” Cafero said.

He said that until “we work out the kinks, we should not force this down anyone’s throat.”

If there are actual practical problems out there, then legislative action may need to be taken, he said. But exactly what those practical problems are still wasn’t clear after hours of testimony.

There are some who believe nothing needs to be changed.

A group of superintendents, school board leaders, principals, parents, and business leaders said Wednesday morning that they’re pleased with the Common Core. The group said they don’t know where the opposition to the Common Core State Standards came from, but they believe the state needs to push forward with its implementation.

Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said all the school districts in the state have been preparing for implementation of the standards for the past four years.

Cirasuolo said he doesn’t know where the approximately 1,500 teachers surveyed by the Connecticut Education Association came from because that’s not what he’s hearing from the leaders of school districts.

The survey found that 97 percent believed there should be some sort of moratorium on the implementation of the standards.

“The perception you were presented weeks ago . . .  is markedly different from that reality that’s occurring,” Cirasuolo said.

He said a lot of what he’s heard is that there’s a lot of misinformation about the Common Core.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said the public outcry against the Common Core is based not upon the validity of the standards themselves, but upon the process of implementation.

The Common Core State Standards were adopted on July 7, 2010, by the state Education Board.

“What’s happening is folks are mixing many different components of education reform and combining it all and injecting a good level of perhaps some level of misinformation to cause confusion,” Villar said.

Read More »

Shelton Patch–Common Core Task Force: The Members and Their Charge


Posted by Gary Jeanfaivre

A cross section from the state’s education community has been charged with diving headfirst into the controversy that has become known as Common Core.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Tuesday that he has signed an executive order creating the Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce – a group that will be comprised of teachers, parents and administrators with the goal of identifying challenges and gaps in Common Core preparation, and making recommendations on improving the quality and consistency of its implementation.

Public Hearing & Rally in Support of Common Core

Malloy’s announcement comes a day before the General Assembly’s Education Committee will hold a public hearing on Common Core. That hearing — which was forced by Republicans in the General Assembly amid growing outcry against Common Core — will take place at noon on Wednesday, March 12, in room 1E of the Legislative Office Building.

Two hours before that hearing, a group of superintendents, school board leaders, principals, business and community leaders will gather at the Legislative Office Building to express support for the Common Core State Standards.

“The rigorous Common Core State Standards are clear and consistent, designed to make sure that what kids need to learn at each grade level builds on the grade level before. We believe that the Common Core will help ensure that all Connecticut students are prepared for college and careers, which, in turn, will help make sure Connecticut thrives,” the group, which refers to itself as “Connecticut’s Big Six,” said in a statement.

The group includes the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).
Read More »–Officials Rally for Common Core


By Molly Callahan

HARTFORD — Education officials from across the state gathered in the legislative offices Wednesday morning to rally support for the state Common Core standards before a public hearing by the Education Committee about legislation aimed at imposing a moratorium on the initiative.

The rally was organized by “Connecticut’s Big Six,” the self-titled pact of six statewide education and community organizations: the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Association of Schools, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

Read More »

The Way I See It: Leadership Continuity


Dear Reader,

As you’ve probably heard, Connecticut has been struggling with the implementation phase of a statewide education reform movement. Critics have voiced concerns about Commissioner Pryor’s leadership, based upon the frustrations of educators facing the difficult implementation process. Change is really hard. But I keep wondering why we attack the leaders who put forward bold agendas for improvement in Connecticut. Can the system really get better if we keep putting districts and the state through these interruptions in leadership?

“This too shall pass” is a phrase I heard often during my six years as a district superintendent. I learned early into my tenure that most employees-teachers and administrators alike-had grown accustomed to the revolving door of leadership, and with it, the associated change in district initiatives. The strategy for dealing with change was very simple: if any particular initiative isn’t going well, simply hunker down and wait for the leadership to change. Why become invested in a reform strategy that is going to be abandoned when leadership shifts?

I’m noticing echoes of that approach throughout Connecticut’s education landscape these days. Although most Read More »

Hartford Courant–Educators Relieved By Malloy’s Proposed Slowdown Of Teacher Evaluations


by Kathy Megan

Educators said Wednesday they are relieved that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants to slow down adoption of the state’s new teacher evaluation system, and the advisory council that created it also backed his proposal.

“The response in my building today was like, wow, at least someone is listening,” said Kathleen Phelan, a guidance counselor and a longtime teacher at East Granby High School.

The Performance Evaluation Advisory Council easily approved Malloy’s recommendations to streamline the evaluation process and delay one of its central features: linking students’ standardized test scores to a teacher’s performance rating. Malloy also called for a new group to assure that another major reform —new academic standards called the Common Core State Standards — is rolled out as successfully as possible.

“It’s apparent that we’re trying to do a lot of things at once,” Malloy told the advisory council Wednesday, “and that becomes difficult because people are stressed. We need to recognize that when that happens, it’s important that we relieve the significant demands on teachers and administrators and systems.”Read More »

CTNewsJunkie–Dems, GOP Agree Separating Teacher Evaluations & Common Core Is Not Political


by Christine Stuart

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said his decision to give school districts the option to delay using a new teacher evaluation method with a new set of standards is a response to the complaints he’s been hearing from educators.

The governor, who has not said whether he is running for re-election, said it’s an issue he’s been working on for the past seven months.

“With respect to the politics of it, I’m really concerned that our teachers have the tools that they need to be successful in the classroom and folks are appropriately trained with respect to the Common Core,” Malloy told reporters Wednesday. “Is it political to hear people? You might categorize it as that. But the reality is that’s the appropriate way to handle these things.”

Under the new evaluation system student performance counts as 45 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, and while not all student performance hinges on standardized test scores, “we began to hear complaints that some people were being overwhelmed by the combination of Common Core and new teacher evaluation system,” Malloy said. Read More »

CT Mirror: House GOP, Teachers’ Union Want to Revisit Common Core


By Keith M. Phaneuf and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

With the 2014 General Assembly session one week away, House Republican lawmakers and the leader of the state’s largest teachers’ union Wednesday called for a public review of the controversial Common Core education standards…


While push-back has been strong to Common Core, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform said that ‘we will oppose any delay in implementation of the Common Core State Standards.’

Though public discourse is important, ‘districts have had plenty of time to establish aligned curricula and instruction,’ the reform council added. ‘At this point, all schools should already have been teaching curricula that are Common Core aligned, and all students should already have been adjusting to these new standards for several years.’

Read the full story here.