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Inkling News: Connecticut Calls for Reevaluation of State Education System and Funding

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, points out that revamping Connecticut’s school system stretches far beyond rationalizing the distribution of funding—it also requires a revamping of the attitudes in and towards lower income schools.

“All [students are] innately capable- but we send messages to some children saying, ‘We don’t expect much from you,’ then we say to other children, ‘You could be the next supreme court justice,’” Villar says.

Read the full story here.

New Haven Register (opinion): New Haven superintendent’s departure underscores need to stabilize local control

Connecticut will barrel into a period in which Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven will all be searching for new district leaders — and competing for top candidates. The timing could not be more perfect for the recent superior court decision in CCJEF v. Rell, which called attention to the irrationality of our education system — including Connecticut’s deference to local control. Indeed, as we’re seeing in all three large districts, local control can often create instability that is unfair to kids.

New Haven will undergo a difficult period of transition that leaves administrators and teachers guessing which initiatives most deserve their attention. They will probably have to acclimate to an interim leader before they get a steadier presence in the Superintendent’s office. And even then, how long will this next leader last? Throughout the leadership vacuum, teachers will do what they simply must: close their classroom doors and struggle to meet their students’ needs on their own.

Bridgeport is soon to face a similar vacuum, from the sounds of it, resulting from a total deterioration of the local board.

Isn’t there a better way?

Read the full story here.

CCER’s 2016 Impact Report


This quick report tracks our latest progress in narrowing the achievement gap in Connecticut. As you’ll see from this report, we primarily do our work by: (1) supporting the highest need public school districts; (2) advocating for state-level policy solutions; and (3) promoting public awareness about the need for change.

Click here to access this report.





CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, September 15, 2016, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepson announced plans to appeal Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s decision in the decade-long trial, CCJEF v. Rell. Although the trail was about the adequacy of Connecticut’s funding of public school education, Judge Moukawsher’s decision was noteworthy because it criticized the irrationality of Connecticut’s education system as a whole–requiring the state to develop a plan that addresses its funding model, graduation standards, teacher evaluation and compensation, and special education. In response to the Attorney General’s decision to appeal, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), made the following statement:

“We believe that Judge Moukawsher’s most important observation is that the state has a non-delegable duty to provide its students with access to an adequate education. He said that the state cannot delegate its duty to local authorities and then wipe its hands of its responsibility. If local authorities aren’t getting the job done, it’s the state’s duty to intervene. We hope that takeaway stands up to scrutiny on appeal—and also motivates the legislature to push for change with urgency.

“As the Attorney General himself has observed, even though the case is being appealed, our General Assembly does not need to wait to address the very real problems that plague Connecticut’s education system. Judge Moukawsher has drawn attention to some irrational and critical issues with public education in our state. It’s high time we solve them.

“It is my sincere hope that our legislators won’t use this appeal simply as an excuse for further delay. Connecticut can’t afford to wait another ten years before it builds a system that meets the needs of its students or the promise of its constitution.”


 About the Connecticut Council for Education Reform

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)–a statewide, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) not- for-profit organization–works to close the achievement gap and raise academic outcomes for all students in Connecticut. The achievement gap is the disparity in academic achievement between children from low-income families and children of color, and their peers. We advocate for state policies and local practices that research shows have the best chance of raising achievement for high-need student populations.

For more information on CCER, go to


CT Viewpoints (opinion): Judge correctly identified need for systemic public education overhaul.

The ink isn’t yet dry on Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling in CCJEFv. Rell — originally brought in 2005 — and Connecticut must already prepare to defend its educational practices in another court –this time federal.

These decades of trials, for all of their legal distinctions, ultimately come down to the same idea: Although Connecticut has a constitutional obligation to educate its students, it’s doing a bad job for many of them.

asked only to address the constitutionality of our spending– Moukawsher has found himself requiring the state to produce a plan that also addresses standards, human resources, special education, and the relationship between state and local government.

surely undertaking that challenge is better than spending precious state funds on defending future lawsuits, or facing the economic and moral implications of producing further generations of graduates who are unprepared to succeed in life.

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Better Outcomes Require More Than Funding

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: (203) 506-5799


Hartford, Connecticut – Today, September 7th, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled on an almost-11-year-old case about the constitutionality of Connecticut’s education finance system: Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell. Judge Moukawsher ruled that Connecticut’s process for allocating education funding is irrational and unconstitutional. In response to the ruling, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), made the following statement:

“CCER agrees with Judge Moukawsher’s finding that Connecticut’s approach to funding public education is irrational. We have repeatedly pointed to the unclear and unjust manner of distributing education dollars through the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula. And as unjust as that formula is, Connecticut has not even been using it of late—relying instead on an ad hoc and highly politicized distribution of funds to districts. When gaps in achievement loom as large as they do in Connecticut, it’s patently unfair to underfund these school districts.

“But it is especially noteworthy that Judge Moukawsher did not merely call for additional spending, rather choosing to emphasize the various ways in which our system needs to be re-worked. I am struck by the similarities between Judge Moukawsher’s apparent outlook and CCER’s policy agenda. An offshoot of a gubernatorial commission convened to find solutions to Connecticut’s unenviable achievement gap, CCER has consistently advocated for holistic reform of the public education system, including the need to make our funding structures more transparent and equitable—but not stopping there.Read More »

The Christian Science Monitor–Connecticut students: unequal – and now unconstitutional

Since 2012, the year that Quesnel began as superintendent, East Hartford has received millions of dollars in extra funding for support services and remedial classes under two state programs aimed at turning around struggling schools.

There are encouraging signs of progress, says Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Educational Reform, a nonprofit that has worked with East Hartford to implement one of the state programs. But he warns that the concentration of poverty in urban districts creates its own challenges that are beyond the control of school principals, such as violent neighborhoods and transient households.

‘The capacity of teachers to meet the needs of kids in their class becomes very taxed when you have a large group of students coming with great stresses in their life experience,’ says Mr. Villar, who spent more than two decades as a teacher and administrator in Connecticut

Read the full story here.

Hartford Courant: Gov. Malloy Touts Smarter Balanced Scores

Jeff Villar, executive director for the Connecticut Council on Education Reform, wasn’t so sanguine about the test results.

“The governor is 100 percent correct, Connecticut is showing positive progress as measured by improved graduation rates and year over year Smarter Balanced Scores which is good news,” Villar said in an email. “However, no matter how you dice it, nearly fifty percent of our Alliance Districts failed to make the level of progress that their peers have despite the addition of significant state funding and intervention. We must expect all Alliance Districts to make high levels of progress. In school, a 50 is still an F.”

“Connecticut must do better for all of our children. We need a greater sense of urgency if we are going to close our persistent gaps in student achievement across the state.

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CT Sees Improvements Under Common Core

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, August 18, 2016, the Connecticut State Department of Education released preliminary results for the 2016 Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), which has now been administered twice in Connecticut. The results show improvements in both English Language Arts and Math across the state—with the percentage of students who meet expectations in both subjects improving by over three percentage points. In response, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) made the following statement:

“It is very encouraging to learn that the second administration of the SBAC has revealed improved academic outcomes for students in both English and Math. Based on these measurable results, we—as a state—must continue our commitment to implementing rigorous standards for both teachers and students. If we want to improve upon these positive trends, Connecticut public school districts must remain focused on high-quality learning experiences for their students and meaningful professional development opportunities for their educators.

“Although today’s results are generally positive, our analysis still suggests that we have much work to do in narrowing gaps in achievement: even though the state saw improvement across the board, the pace of improvement has been faster for White students than students of color. This should remind us all of the need to identify and scale practices that work for our highest-need student groups.

“Notably, almost half of the state’s lowest-performing districts have improved at even faster rates than the state. These “Alliance Districts” are part of a program that has provided increased state-level oversight and significant additional funding. While today’s results demonstrate the promise of that effort, we now need to unpack which actions are making a difference within these high-need districts. CCER is currently undertaking a research study of the Alliance District program since its inception in 2012. Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures, we hope to identify impactful initiatives and make recommendations for further refining the state’s intervention model.

“Overall, we are certainly heartened by these preliminary data. Now, we must demand year-over-year improvement if we are to close Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap. Our students deserve nothing less.”


Read More »

Hartford Courant: Student Scores Improve On Smarter Balanced Test

Connecticut students who took the state’s Smarter Balanced test in the spring showed significant improvement over last year, though less than half of the state’s students are meeting or exceeding the achievement standard on the math section of the exam.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said the improvement in test scores is “encouraging,” but said “the pace of improvement has been faster for white students than students of color. This should remind us all of the need to identify … practices that work for our highest-need student groups.”

Read the full story here.

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