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Nicki Perkins

Nicki Perkins is the Director of Communications and Development for the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. She began working at CCER as a Graduate Fellow while earning her JD from the University of Connecticut School of Law. During that time, she helped CCER to establish priorities and associated briefs for the 2012 legislative session, and she also conducted research on Connecticut’s then-existing statutory provisions as compared to corresponding statutes from other states. Currently, Nicki manages CCER’s efforts to raise public awareness and garner support for the organization. She also continues to support CCER’s research and policy work.

Region 10 Superintendent Spearheads an Innovative Shift to Full-Day K

This week, the Regional School District #10 has officially embarked upon its full-day kindergarten program, after a long campaign. Regional School District 10 with ten board members, and two towns between which funds are allocated proportionally.  While the district already had a half-day kindergarten program, full-day kindergarten was a novel idea that did not get immediate support from the parents in the two counties or the local board of education.  We touched base with Region 10’s dedicated Superintendent, Alan Beitman, to find out a bit about how this impressive program came together and how the district overcame challenges along the way.  

Q: When a district is getting ready to embark upon a program like full-day kindergarten, we know that funding can always be an issue.  Did you need more funding to create this program, or did you find a creative solution?

A:  When you’re trying to introduce an innovative idea, asking for additional funding just provides a platform to those who are opposed, so we knew we had to find an alternative solution.  In Region 10, we came up with an idea that I don’t think all districts have thought of yet: we decided to shift the funding from our half-day kindergarten busing program to cover the bulk of the costs of full-day kindergarten.   We realized that it was going to cost us an additional $100,000 to pay for teachers’ salaries if we moved from a half-day to a full-day schedule, which is roughly what we were already paying to send kindergarteners home half-way through the school day. Once we stopped having to bus kindergarteners home in the middle of the day (and instead sent them home at the end of the full school day), we could use the money that we would have spent on transportation to fund full-day kindergarten.Read More »

Connecticut Approaches Halfway Mark for Bellwether Barometer on Teacher Effectiveness

Last month, Bellwether Education Partners released a new report on recent action that states have taken with respect to teacher effectiveness. The report analyzes the 21 states that have addressed teacher effectiveness since 2010 through new statutes and regulations. The study scored states based upon thirteen criteria, some of which include:

  • Are all teachers evaluated annually?
  • Are principals, as well as teachers, evaluated?
  • Is evidence of student learning a factor in educator evaluations?
  • Do evaluations differentiate between multiple levels of educator effectiveness?
  • Are educator preparation programs accountable for graduates’ effectiveness?
  • Is tenure linked to effectiveness?
  • Does state law or policy provide clear authority to dismiss ineffective teachers and a reasonable process for doing so?
  • Do principals have the authority to decide who teaches in their schools?
  • Are effective teachers rewarded with increased compensation?

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Common Themes of the Commissioner’s Network Schools’ Turnaround Plans

On August 9th, the State Board of Education approved and adopted the four turnaround plans for James J. Curiale School of Bridgeport, Thirman L. Milner School of Hartford, High School in the Community of New Haven, and of the John B. Stanton School of Norwich. These four schools are the first participants in the Commissioner’s Network of Schools and will begin implementing their new turnaround plans in the coming year. According to Commissioner Pryor, each of these four schools is in the bottom ten percent of schools in the state, at least 75% of each school’s student populations qualify for free and reduced lunch, and each school has been In Need of Improvement for four or more years.Read More »

How Summer Learning Programs Can Help Close Connecticut’s Achievement Gap

By: Rae Ann Knopf and Nicki Perkins

As Connecticut continues its work on closing the achievement gap during these summer months, it’s important to know that some disparities in academic performance between students of different socio-economic statuses can be traced to unequal learning opportunities over the summer vacation.  Nationally, students of all backgrounds tend to lose about one month of their math and reading gains from the prior academic year each summer. We call this “summer learning loss.” According to last year’s study by the RAND Corporation, low-income students are disproportionately affected by summer learning loss. On average, low-income students lose two months of reading skills, with losses accumulating over multiple summers.

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Fostering Great Teachers and Leaders: State Board Approves Teacher and Administrator Evaluation Guidelines

Yesterday, Connecticut’s State Board of Education unanimously approved the adoption of teacher and administrator evaluation guidelines, now known as “Core Requirements”. The Core Requirements, which were developed by the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) after almost two years of work, call for an unprecedented amount of feedback and support to be provided to teachers and school administrators and factor student performance into evaluations. Read More »

The Commissioner’s Network: A Key Strategy for Turning around CT’s Lowest-Performing Schools

With 135 schools that have been designated as “In Need of Improvement” for five or more years, the Commissioner’s Network of schools is an innovative and strategic approach to turning around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools. Established in Senate Bill 458, the Commissioner’s Network provides the State Department of Education with the flexibility and resources to intervene in and support the turnaround of twenty-five of Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools within the next three years. Read More »

Performance Evaluation Advisory Council Reaches Consensus on Student Performance Measures in Teacher Evaluations

In an effort to clear up a misunderstanding and potential obstacle to implementation concerning how students’ test results will count toward a teacher’s evaluation, the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) met on Thursday, May 31, 2012. Convening at the State Office Building, members discussed required parameters including how much weight student testing will carry in the outcome of the evaluation.

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US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Announces the Approval of CT’s NCLB Waiver Application

In another landmark moment for education reform in Connecticut, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Governor Malloy announced that CT’s application for a waiver from requirements of the 2001 No Child Left Behind Legislation (NCLB) was approved. Under NCLB, progress was measured against the goal of having 100% of students in high poverty schools achieve proficiency by 2014, with corrective actions and the restricted use of federal funds for schools and districts that fell short.  The NCLB waiver will replace the state’s old system with one that allows the State Department of Education (SDE) to direct resources, interventions and supports to meet the specific needs of low-achieving groups of students in every school and district across the state.  The waiver also requires the SDE to focus on supporting effective instruction and leadership, as well as establishing and supporting college- and career-readiness expectations.

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The Implementation Phase of Education Reform Begins

The passage of Connecticut’s landmark education reform bill, Senate Bill 458 (S.B. 458), marked the starting point for the State Board of Education (SBE) and the State Department of Education (SDE) to begin the implementation phase of reform efforts in earnest. On May 17, the SBE’s monthly meeting agenda included a presentation by Commissioner Pryor on S.B. 458 and the work currently underway at the SDE to implement the bill’s provisions. Read More »

A Look at Key Elements of Connecticut’s Education Reform Bill

Connecticut’s Year of Education Reform produced a landmark education reform bill.  Senate Bill 458 mandates the type of integrated changes that will help Connecticut to close its achievement gap while raising academic outcomes for all students. A summary of key elements of Senate Bill 458 is below.  The full bill can be found here and an analysis of the bill by the Office of Legislative Research can be found here.

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