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Hartford Courant–Uconn Study Supports New Teacher Evaluation System

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By Kathy Megan

A University of Connecticut report on the pilot for the state’s nehttp://ctedreform.org/wp-admin/post.php?post=6036&action=editw teacher evaluation system finds that it provides more guidance for teachers, but raises questions about whether educators have enough time to carry out the demanding assessments.

The new evaluation system, which started in 14 districts last year and expanded statewide in September, ties a teacher’s performance rating to student achievement, including students’ test scores, as well as a variety of other factors, such as classroom observations by administrators.

Deborah Wheeler, superintendent of Litchfield public schools, one of the pilot districts, said that teachers spent “more time on goal setting,” allowing them “to look deeply at their own practice and at the needs of the students sitting in front of them.”

Wheeler said her staff found that the new evaluation produced “a depth, a richness,” to the conversations between administrators and teachers that they hadn’t seen previously. “I don’t believe that we found anyone we rated unusually low who we were not aware of already,” she said.

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Bloomfield Public Schools–Bloomfield Public Schools Confirms Continued Progress with New State Performance Reports

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Bloomfield, CT – With the recent release of the 2013 District and School Performance Index by the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE), the district has further evidence that the reforms begun during the 2011-2012 school year, and fully implemented in the 2012-2013 school year, continue to have a significant impact on achievement across all subject areas and overall graduation rates.

“We are very excited by our results!” explained Superintendent James Thompson, Ed.D. “We also recognize that we must continue to strive to make Bloomfield a district that is competing at the highest level of achievement in student performance.”  Dr. Thompson explained, “this new tool for measuring performance is a great tool for parents and the community to compare our growth from year to year.” 

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) has established an ‘88’ as the goal, or statewide target achievement level. In addition, the CSDE has set incremental goals for individual districts, based on a three year average. Carmen Arace Intermediate writing performance approached this with an index of 87.1.  As a district, Bloomfield Schools met 100% (5 of 5) of the 2013 Overall incremental Performance targets set by the CSDE. The CMT district performance target of 74.5 was exceeded by 3.3 points, at 77.8. The CAPT district performance target of 60.4 was exceeded by 3.8 points, at 64.2. Other measures included an examination of the size of the performance gaps between subgroups in comparison with the ‘All Student’ group.  This measure “draws appropriate attention to subgroup performance and allows for schools and districts to be held accountable for closing achievement gaps.”[i]   Bloomfield’s performance indices results for the CMT and CAPT demonstrated that there was no gap of 10 or more points for the majority of subgroups.  The continued increases in the performance index for CMT and CAPT across subject areas and subgroups confirm the district’s trend to close the achievement gap between Bloomfield and the state of Connecticut.

Connecticut Council for Education Reform noted, in their recent bulletin, “Only Bloomfield and Stamford managed to meet elementary and high school targets for their low-income populations.” Read More »

PIE Network–PISA Results: Reactions and Commentary from Our Network Members

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By Christina Slater

Yesterday’s release of the 2012 Program for International Assessment (PISA) scores prompted many education advocates to analyze U.S. academic performance on an international scale.

PIE Network members in Connecticut, Florida and Massachusetts, the three U.S. states that chose to receive individual ratings, had a unique opportunity to see how their states measure up.Read More »

Flipping Expectations: Student-Led Learning in a Flipped Classroom

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We’ve been looking at policy in action in each of our 6 recommendation areas. We’ve already looked at the use of longitudinal data systems to drive accountability, and a teacher’s perspective on the Common Core. We’ve heard about turn around efforts within a Commissioner’s Network School.

Today, let’s talk about some Excellent Teaching! We’ve asked Erin Scholes, Somers School District’s Teacher of the Year, to tell us a little bit about her experience with “flipped classrooms.”

 

Tell us about your teaching style. Is there anything special you do to engage your students? 

I don’t like to spend my time standing in front of the students and “telling” them how to do something. Instead, my math classes are more focused on inquiry based learning, where students try things out to figure out why the math works. A “flipped classroom” is one technique I use with my students because it uses technology to change the structure of the classroom and homework activities. It’s called a “flipped” classroom because it’s the reverse of what people may think of when they think about classroom instruction and homework. Rather than a lesson or concept being taught in the front of the class and then practiced at night, students use technology (video, podcast, article, ext.) to learn the concept on their own; then they use class time the next day with the teacher to practice or use the new concept.

Occasionally, the flipped classroom isn’t really a good fit for me as a teacher–when lessons that are already created Read More »

From Our New Executive Director: On Education as a Pillar of the American Dream

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Yesterday–on Jeffrey Villar‘s first day as executive director–we asked him about his decision to join CCER. Below he discusses his personal story, his career trajectory, and why he thinks education is a pillar of the American Dream.

We’re so excited that Jeffrey has joined our team, and we hope you are too!

We are all the product of the decisions and actions of those who came before us. In my case, my father came to the United States as a fourteen-year-old boy with his older brother and younger sister, leaving his parents behind in Cuba, and fleeing the Cuban revolution. My mother is a self-made woman who, as an adult and mother of three children, returned to school and went from a GED to a highly successful career as an elementary principal. Each of my parents had overcome significant adversity, and through their actions, my siblings and I saw firsthand the importance of hard work, education and opportunity.

These formative experiences and values are largely responsible for my career choices and my belief that a quality public education system is an essential pillar of the American Dream. We must provide all children with a quality education so that they have the opportunity to meet their own fullest potential.

I have held many positions in education throughout my career. I was a high school and middle school history teacher, a high school and middle school assistant principal, and a middle school principal. After that, I served as an associate superintendent, and the superintendent of both Rocky Hill and Windsor Public Schools. Along the way, I struggled toRead More »

A Teacher’s Insights: Why We Need Standards

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Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a look at policy in action in each of our 6 recommendation areas. We’ve already looked at longitudinal data systems that are used to drive accountability. This week, let’s hear directly from a teacher about why Common Core and the new associated assessment systems are important and valuable to the teaching profession.

Take a look at these examples of third grade math assessment questions from the CMT and Smarter Balanced tests. How do they compare?

At first glance, these two questions may appear very similar, but they reveal several key changes for students and teachers in the upcoming Common Core assessments. (In Massachusetts, where I teach, we will be using PARCC assessments. In Connecticut, you’ll use Smarter Balanced.)

The CMT question provides a scenario that students are required to model as a mathematical equation by selecting the correct equation from four choices. The Smarter Balanced question also provides a scenario that students are required to model as a mathematical equation; however, it requires students to create the model of the situation, instead of picking it from several options.

This small change is a significant shift. By moving beyond the multiple-choice format, this Smarter Balanced question removes the presence of a correct answer, the ability to guess a correct response, or the possibility that test prep strategies helped to eliminate answer choices. Instead, the Smarter Balanced question requires that a student must know the relevant mathematics to answer correctly.

In awarding points, the Smarter Balanced test considers both (a) the process of arriving at the correct answer and (b) the actual correct answer. In this way, students who arrive at the correct answer (22) are rewarded with some of the points, but students who can also represent how they got that answer ((3×8)-2) are awarded additional points.  As a result there is a more complete assessment of what students know and are able to do. This emphasis on mastery of content over test preparation allows teachers to better understand our students’ misconceptions as well as their strengths.Read More »

The Journal Inquirer: Closing the achievement gap

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By Steve Simmons

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform recently released its 2013 Policy Progress Report, which introduces a new rubric to measure Connecticut’s progress in passing and implementing education reforms at the state level. These reforms are designed to close Connecticut’s widest-in-the-nation achievement gap.

Ensuring that our low-income students are achieving at the same level as their more affluent peers is both a moral and economic imperative.

Not only does our persistent achievement gap impede our ability to break the cycle of poverty, but it also damages our state’s economy. Nearly 8,000 Connecticut students drop out of high school each year — each one costing the state approximately $500,000 in increased social service expenses and lost revenues over the course of his/her lifetime. Of those students who do graduate from high school in Connecticut, only 44 percent are college- or career-ready, leaving many graduates unable to earn a living wage.

The bottom line is that a significant part of Connecticut’s public education system is in crisis, and we must change the status quo if we’re going to fix it.

The rubric in our report is designed to hold the state accountable for doing just that. It measures Connecticut’s progress in adopting the policies within CCER’s 10-year plan to narrow the achievement gap, and only awards points when policies both have been passed and are being put into practice.

While Connecticut is off to a strong start — having put 31 percent of the policies into action in only two years — the newly released report reveals that there is still much more work to be done.

Connecticut has made meaningful progress in several important areas.

For example, the state has reformed teacher tenure and established a new evaluation and support system that links educator effectiveness to student growth. Connecticut has also begun to use a new framework for turning around our lowest-performing schools and districts.

Additionally, Connecticut has earned points for having a strong, reform-oriented leadership team in place at the state level.

However, our 2013 policy progress report highlights numerous areas where the state still needs to improve.

One pervasive problem is that Connecticut lacks a quality data system to track students’ progress from preschool to college and/or the workforce. Such a system is a critical tool for monitoring and helping students, as well as evaluating school personnel and policies.

Connecticut also needs to set higher expectations for all students. That means fully implementing the Common Core and establishing mastery-based standards that all students must meet before they can graduate from high school.

It also means measuring students’ progress more frequently so that we know when they’re falling behind and can quickly provide interventions that will help them catch up. Of critical importance is the need to ensure that all low-income 3- and 4-year-olds — who are often already behind — have the opportunity to participate in high-quality preschool experiences.

The state also must broaden its pool of talented teachers and leaders. Although we have done a lot in two years to ensure that the teachers and leaders within our system will be effective, we’ve made almost no progress in implementing policies to bring in new talent. We need to improve the preparation of our educators, and overcome the ridiculous barriers that keep outstanding leadership in other states from crossing the border to work in Connecticut.

As the chairman of CCER, I applaud the progress that has been made so far. But our hard work has only just begun. We need to continue to pass additional needed reforms and work to implement those that have been enacted.

Every Connecticut child deserves an exceptional education, without exception.

Read the full article here.

Steve Simmons Speaks on the Mary Jones Show

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With the release of our new 2013 Policy Progress Report, Steven Simmons discussed the work that remains to be done on the Mary Jones Show. There’s still a lot to do before every child receives an exceptional education, without exception. Listen here!

For Immediate Release: CCER Releases 2013 Policy Progress Report

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New Haven, Connecticut – The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), today released its 2013 Policy Progress Report, a body of work that measures how much progress the state is making on passing and implementing state-level education reforms.

The comprehensive study indicates a strong first year of implementation, but shows significantly more work lies ahead as Connecticut attempts to shrink its widest-in-the-nation achievement gap.

“We have seen great progress for the first year; but this is a ten-year journey, and the achievement gap is not going to narrow overnight,” said Ramani Ayer, vice-chairman of the Board.

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The Norwhch Bulletin: Progress is being made in closing achievement gap

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By Steven Simmons

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) released its 2013 Policy Progress Report, which tracks the passage and implementation of a 10-year plan to narrow Connecticut’s widest-in-the-nation achievement gap.

Helping low-income students achieve at the same level as their peers is a moral and economic imperative. Not only does our persistent achievement gap impede our ability to break the cycle of poverty, it also damages our state’s economy.

Nearly 8,000 Connecticut students drop out of high school every year, each costing the state approximately $500,000 in social service expenses and lost revenues over his or her lifetime.

Of the students who do finish high school, only 44 percent are college- or career-ready. Many won’t earn a living wage.

New policies in place

The bottom line: If we’re going to fix Connecticut’s education crisis, we must change the status quo. The rubric in CCER’s report is designed to hold the state accountable for doing just that. Points are awarded only when CCER’s policies have actually been put into practice.

We’re off to a strong start, but despite having implemented 31 percent of these policies in only two years, we still has plenty left to do.

Meaningful progress has been made. Teacher tenure has been reformed and established evaluations linking educator effectiveness to student growth implemented. Also implemented is a new framework for turning around our lowest-performing schools.

Still more to do

One pervasive problem is the lack of a quality data system to track students’ progress from preschool to college and/or the workforce. Without it, we can’t properly monitor students or evaluate education practices.

We need to set higher expectations for all students. That means fully implementing the Common Core and requiring high school students to demonstrate mastery of content before graduation. It means measuring students’ progress more frequently so that we can intervene sooner. For low-income three- and four-year olds, it also means providing high-quality preschool experiences.

Another problem is that we’ve done little to broaden the pool of talented educators. We need to improve educator preparation programs, and overcome the ridiculous barriers that keep outstanding leadership in other states from crossing the border to work here.

I applaud the progress made so far. But Connecticut’s hard work has only just begun. We must continue to challenge the status quo if we want every child to have an exceptional education, without exception.

 

Read the full article here.