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Hartford Courant: Reform Group Says State Has Much Left to Do to Improve Education

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By KATHLEEN MEGAN

A school reform group is giving the state high marks for adding new leadership to public education, adopting more rigorous academic standards and tying teacher tenure to teacher effectiveness.

But in a report to be released Tuesday morning in New Haven, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform says the state must go further and tie teachers’ compensation to their performance evaluation, raise the number of children in pre-kindergarten programs and ensure that more low-achieving students get remedial help.

“This is a ten-year journey, it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Ramani Ayer, vice chairman of the council and the former CEO and chairman of The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.Read More »

The Courant: Windsor School Superintendnet Leaving to Lead School Reform Group

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By David Owens and Steven Goode

WINDSOR — Superintendent Jeffrey A. Villar is leaving his post to lead the nonprofit Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

A week ago, the town received the results of a controversial study that sought to explain why black and Latino students lag behind their white counterparts in achievement in the town’s schools. Villar said it provided lots for parents and school officials to discuss.

The recommendations of the Excellence and Equity Review, Villar said, offer “a lot to digest, a lot to come to agreement on” and that he hoped the community and school board could come together in analyzing the study’s findings. Read More »

Fighting Chronic Absenteeism to Turn Around Schools

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 This summer, we’ve looked at best practices within each of our six policy recommendation areas. We’ve taken a look at the need to demand accountability at the state level; the need to foster leadership in our districts and schools; ideas for developing an excellent teacher talent pool; strategies for raising expectations of our students; and the importance of investing intelligently in our education system. 

Let’s kick off the school year by discussing some practices for turning around achievement at the school-level.

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Too many of Connecticut’s underprivileged students are in chronically low-performing schools, which exacerbates the state’s highest-in-the-nation achievement gap. In order to ensure that every child is receiving the education that she deserves, we must focus on reform strategies that are specifically targeted towards the complex problems that students in these schools face.

Chronic absenteeism is defined differently by different states; often it is described as missing 10% of school. While chronic absenteeism occurs in almost all districts, it is generally concentrated in a few low-performing schools. These schools are disproportionately in low-income, urban districts. In some districts, as many as one-in-three students misses a month of school or more each year. Students who were chronically absent scored 60 points below their peers on reading and 100 points below their peers on math, even when both groups started school at comparable levels. Falling behind academically further discourages students from attending school and can have a cyclical effect. School attendance is the most accurate determinate of whether students will eventually drop out.

Below are some of the methods that are being used around the country to combat absenteeism and turn around schools.Read More »

GreenwichTime.com: Greenwich man looks back on his march to Washington

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By Brittany Lyte

As a kid, Steve Simmons learned a lot about this country on summer road trips to Florida.

Things were done a whole lot differently in the South. Restaurants, hotels and water fountains marked with signs stating whether “colored” folks could use them were distressing to the youngster from Roslyn Heights, N.Y.

“I remember several times just crying over it,” said Simmons, whose childhood nanny was a South Carolina-bred black woman whom he loved. “I couldn’t understand how that was allowed.”

Simmons sometimes refused to eat on these family trips, choosing instead to wait in the car while his parents lunched at restaurants that would not serve black customers.Read More »

Test Results in the Suburbs

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While we’ve discussed the CMT and CAPT results in Connecticut’s urban districts, there’s also a story to be told about achievement in the suburbs. We wanted to give a shout out to some suburban districts that saw increased achievement scores for both low-income students and their peers, alongside a narrowing of the achievement gap.Read More »

Hartford Courant: Persistence Key To Education Reform Effort

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Connecticut needs to do much more to help low-income children succeed in school.

This year’s Connecticut Mastery Test and Connecticut Academic Performance Test results confirm what everybody already knew: passing landmark education reform in 2012 wasn’t enough. It was a great start to a long and challenging process of reforming public education, but if Connecticut is going to close its achievement gap, it will need to sustain these comprehensive reforms over many years.Read More »

Holding Students to High Expectations

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This summer, we’re looking at best practices within each of our six policy recommendation areas. We’ve taken a look at the need to demand accountability at the state level; the need to foster leadership in our districts and schools; and ideas for developing an excellent teacher talent pool 

This week, let’s talk about raising expectations for our students.

Did you know that American students are substantially behind their international peers in academics? In 2006, American students taking the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams scored, on average, 489 in science and 474 in math-as compared to the international average of 530 in both subjects. This means that the United States is more than one grade level behind in both subjects. We need to expect more of our students if they are to compete in a global economy.

The national movement to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) is designed to raise expectations of our students by shifting the focus in the classroom from quantity to quality. They demand that our students master rigorous content and help to ensure that students from across America are being taught to the same high levels. In 2010, Connecticut became one of 45 states to adopt CCSS, and we’re getting ready to roll it out over the next two years.  As we prepare to do so, it’s important to learn from our neighbors who are undergoing similar challenges.Read More »

CCER Introduces Its New Director of Education Transformation

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I can remember the day like it was yesterday…

Before returning to my home state of Connecticut, I had the honor to serve as a Principal in a Washington, DC Public School (DCPS) serving students with severe emotional disabilities.

I remember sitting in a leader professional development (PD) session where we were discussing a new report breaking down the achievement gap across the nation (What caused the gap? What strategies were being implemented to close it? Where were the most prevalent issues?) and seeing Connecticut, my home state, at the top of the list; it had the widest achievement gap in the nation.  How could that be? Growing up in Connecticut I had never heard about how poorly our schools were performing, never heard how deep the divide was between high- and low-income communities.  The Connecticut I’d known was a strong, powerful, “well-to-do” state–a state I’d felt did not need my help, a state I’d left after college so that I could work in places that did need me–the US Peace Corps, Teach for America in Hawaii, and New Leaders for New Schools in Washington, DC. Those places, which were struggling to serve their communities, needed my help; not Connecticut.Read More »

Fostering Leadership in Connecticut

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This summer, we’ll be exploring new research and best practices within each of our six policy recommendation areas. Last week, we took a look at the need to demand accountability at the state level. This week, let’s talk about how we can foster leadership in our districts and schools.

Let’s start with something we all know—Connecticut needs strong school leaders to help drive improvement statewide and especially in low-income districts.  Principals make a significant difference in a student’s educational career, even though they may have limited direct interaction. An analysis published in Education Next noted that an effective principal can raise the achievement of a typical student by two to seven months, while ineffective principals will lower student achievement by an equivalent amount. Other reports show that the principal accounts for 25% of a school’s impact on student achievement. While studies may vary regarding the exact level of influence, the conclusion is ubiquitous: principals have a meaningful impact on student achievement.  And the results of these studies are magnified in economically disadvantaged school systems.

Unfortunately, Connecticut’s need for strong administrators is growing drastically. With more than 40% of administrators over the age of 55, Connecticut will likely have to attract 1,500 additional school administrators in the next 5 to 10 years. The real question is: Where will we find school leaders to replace those who are leaving?

Connecticut needs to foster leadership in order to continue to improve education for all students. Here are three best practices to help find the school leaders of tomorrow. Read More »

What the NCTQ Teacher Prep Results Mean for CT

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Having an effective teacher is the most important factor in student achievement, but there seems to be little consistency in how we train teachers, according to a new study by National Center on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).  The NCTQ Teacher Prep Review came out recently, rating teacher prep programs from 1,130 academic institutions across the nation.

The institutions were rated on different categories such as how selective they were in admissions, the effectiveness of their student teaching programs, the strength of their curriculum and classroom management programs, and whether the institution tracked the effectiveness of their graduating teachers. Overall, the report’s findings are dismal.  Less than 10% of all programs earned three or more stars on the four-star rating scale.  Only one institution in the entire country earned more than three stars for both an elementary and secondary program (Ohio State University).

The programs rated by the report produce 99% of traditionally trained new teachers, which means what they teach effects many of our nation’s most vulnerable youth. The average first year teacher tends to be assigned to students who are already behind grade level.  Too often these children are low-income and students of color.

Where Do Connecticut’s Teacher Prep Programs Stand?

Connecticut’s ratings wavered between mediocre and terrible.  While none of Connecticut’s 29 rated programs received a “Consumer Warning” for earning less than one star, only the graduate secondary program at Southern Connecticut State University received 3 out of 4 stars, placing them on the Teacher Prep Review’s Honor Roll.  We may not be the worst in the nation, but we are far from being the best. Here’s how Connecticut stacked up nationally:Read More »