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CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

CCER: NAEP Results Mirror SBAC

Today, the results for the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) were released. Administered nationally every two years, NAEP is the only current exam that allows all American states to compare their students’ achievement. In response to the results, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) made the following statement:

“The NAEP results released today really matched our expectations. In fact, they mirror Connecticut’s recent SBAC results, which were relatively low, particularly so in Math. For me, the key takeaway is that Connecticut still struggles with gaps in achievement, and we still have so much more work to do before every Connecticut child has a shot at a great education.

“What we need to remember is that our state is on a path to making a long-term change in the way public education works for our students—and this is just one data point along the way. We are working to raise academic standards, use data from a new state assessment, and develop a system for providing professional development to our educators. These aren’t the types of changes that happen overnight, so we can’t expect scores to improve immediately. Proper implementation will take time.”

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CT Mirror Op Ed: Don’t Write Off Impoverished Kids

Check out Jeffrey’s response to a recent OpEd that predicted parents will react to low assessment scores by rebelling against testing and efforts to improve schools… We know the truth: that parents aren’t going to protect a system that is failing their own children!

This latest round of test results simply reinforces the fact that we need to change our educational system if we want to improve student learning. A student’s address does not need to define his or her future. And that’s not a truth that is hard for parents to get behind.

I became an educator because, as a child, I saw firsthand that my circumstances weren’t my destiny. Growing up, I watched my father, a Cuban immigrant, work to provide for his family. Self-employed with no medical insurance, no paid vacation, no sick days, he returned to work just days after being injured in a terrible accident because our bills wouldn’t get paid if he didn’t work. At the same time, I watched my mother return to school after having dropped out to raise three children. She eventually became the principal of a school. Through hard work and education, they proved that you can make something of yourself no matter where you come from. It is upon this foundation that they created the luxury of opportunity for me, sending me to college and setting me up to earn advanced degrees. They exemplified what this country is all about.

The education system can’t just write off tens of thousands of children for being poor or for having extra needs.

Read the full piece here.

CCER’s 2015 Policy Progress Report

Each year, we hold ourselves accountable by tracking the number of policies from our original 10-year policy plan to narrow the achievement gap that have been implemented in Connecticut. 

In 2012, Connecticut passed landmark education legislation aimed at closing Connecticut’s achievement gap. However, creating meaningful and lasting change requires transforming these policies into practice. Because the key to success is continuous, measurable improvement over time, we use a rubric to quantitatively chart our long-term progress in both passing and implementing these critical levers for change.

At the end of 2015, we found that over 37% of our priorities had been fully implemented. And we embedded our policy progress report into our website so that we can track change in real time.

  • Click here to access the full report. You’ll find our six priority areas, and–within each–the specific policy recommendations we support. At the bottom of each policy area is a rubric that explains how we’ve allotted points.)
  • Click here for a one-page overview of the rubrics.




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CCER Provides SAT Opportunity in Urban School Districts

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

CCER Provides SAT Opportunity in Urban School Districts

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, September 15, 2015, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) announced that it will be funding SAT preparation opportunities within the Bridgeport Public Schools and East Hartford Public Schools. This project is being conducted in partnership with Kaplan K12 Learning Services, which will provide 18 hours of direct instruction and two practice test experiences to an aggregate of 125 students in Bassick High School (Bridgeport), Harding High School (Bridgeport), Central High School (Bridgeport), and East Hartford High School (East Hartford). The initiative begins this Saturday, September 19th, 2015, in both districts.

Explaining how the initiative was born, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of CCER, stated, “Connecticut has recently shifted to making the SAT a mandatory exam for high school students.  While this policy shift may address concerns regarding over-testing in high school, it is also likely to increase the educational inequities that already exist among the students who attend our public school districts. That’s why we’re doing what we can to begin leveling the playing field.”

Bridgeport Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz said, “The SAT prep provided by CCER is incredibly beneficial to our students. They deserve and need very effective preparation for this assessment, and I feel that the Kaplan Prep gives them an equal opportunity to compete with their suburban peers. Many thanks to CCER for helping Bridgeport with the best SAT preparation available.”

Ned Lamont, Secretary and Treasurer of the CCER Board of Directors, was once a part-time teacher at Bridgeport’s Harding High School. He said, “Nobody likes testing, but college admissions officers put a lot of weight in how you perform on the SAT test. Harding students are extraordinary, and this prep program will remind colleges how extraordinary they are.”

In East Hartford, Superintendent Nate Quesnel described the project as, “an incredible opportunity for East Hartford kids.”

“The tutoring sessions will provide the kids with the needed skills for SAT success and an ability to take that next big step,” he said. “We are extremely appreciative of this partnership and look forward to the success of the program.”

Bryan R. Hall, the Chairman of the Board of Education in East Hartford, said, “We are confident that this partnership with CCER and Kaplan will expand East Hartford’s ability to meet the needs of our students and increase their opportunities to access the college of their dreams. We are very appreciative to CCER for finding a way to provide this valuable support in a tangible, real, and ‘shovel ready’ manner when it comes to kids.“

In response, Villar added, “We believe that this initiative has the potential to provide students with increased opportunities. Improved results on the SAT can impact college admissions and the availability of scholarship funds, both of which are real game changers for students and their families. All of these students deserves an exceptional education, without an exception.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–ConnCAN and CCER Release SBAC Resource Site to Assist Parents in Analyzing Standardized Scores

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799
 “These test results give us the opportunity to understand how well our schools are preparing students for the challenges ahead of them in college and career and give them the tools they need to improve,” – Jennifer Alexander, ConnCAN CEO

New Haven, CT [August 28, 2015] – The State Department of Education today released results from the 2014-15 Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC). As expected, student scores reflected a lower readiness level than previously assessed by Connecticut’s earlier exams, the CMT and CAPT.

To assist Connecticut families in navigating their student’s SBAC scores, ConnCAN has teamed up with the Connecticut Council For Education Reform (CCER) to produce a website called, The site will give parents answers to frequently asked SBAC questions, provide ongoing, in-depth analysis on Connecticut scores, offer testimonials on the importance of college and career readiness and serve as a resource for publicly available SBAC information and analysis.

Now that the data is available, both organizations are taking the time to analyze the results thoroughly, and understand where our children stand. Additional information on the scores is available at

“We hope this website will help parents and community members who are searching for answers and understanding when it comes to their students’ SBAC results,” said ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander. “This baseline data gives us a new starting point to determine how well our schools and districts are preparing students for the challenges of college and career. Results from this test are one point of data to help improve practice and better serve students.

“For parents, getting results that suddenly look different and lower than we are used to might be alarming. It’s important to understand that we can’t compare these results to results on the old state test. The Smarter Balanced test is measuring students’ progress towards an entirely new and higher goal,” said Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of CCER. “Comparing these results to the old state tests would be like to comparing your blood pressure to an EKG result. Both may provide information about your health, but they do so in very different and incomparable ways. This year’s test results are a baseline, a starting point from which we should see steady improvements in years to come.”

“With the release of these results, Connecticut now has a more accurate reference point on our students’ college and career readiness,” Alexander said. “We hope this website helps parents, educators and advocates understand SBAC results and make informed decisions in the future. This baseline year gives us a new starting point to understand our students’ progress towards high standards and helps provide some of the data needed to target students’ needs and help them improve. That’s why it is important that parents receive accurate information about the assessment so they can separate myth from reality when it comes to SBAC and help ensure that their children will be ready for the challenges ahead.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Baseline SBAC Results: A Starting Point for Growth

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

Baseline SBAC Results: A Starting Point for Growth

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, August 28th, the Connecticut State Department of Education released baseline results from the 2014-2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment. This is the first administration of the Common Core-aligned test, which was taken by Connecticut students in grades 3-8 and 10 during the spring of 2015. 55.4% of students met or exceeded grade-level expectations for English/Language Arts, and 39.1% met or exceeded expectations for Math. In response to the release of these results, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), issued the following statement:

“Because the new assessment measures progress towards new goals, we view these results as our new baseline. We expect that our statewide scores will increase over time, as educators and students work together on achieving at the higher levels of rigor demanded by the Common Core.

“For parents, getting results that suddenly look different and lower than we are used to might be alarming. It’s important to understand that these results cannot be compared to Connecticut’s legacy exams in any way. The Smarter Balanced test is measuring students’ progress towards an entirely new and higher goal. To assist parents in understanding these new results, we have teamed up with ConnCAN to produce a website,, that we hope will help to answer parents’ questions about this assessment and what it means for their students. This year’s test results are a starting point from which parents should hope to see steady improvements in years to come.”

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Education Officials Say Low Test Scores Matched Expectations

By Christine Stuart

Supporters of the new SBAC test said parents should not be alarmed by the results.

‘It’s important to understand that these results cannot be compared to Connecticut’s legacy exams in any way,’ Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Education Reform, said. ‘The Smarter Balanced test is measuring students’ progress towards an entirely new and higher goal.’

Read the full story here.


Unified School Board Contributes to Bloomfield Success

Don-Harris-headshot-preferredAs chairman of the board for Bloomfield Public Schools, which our data indicates is the most improved school district in Connecticut over the past four years; I’m often asked what contributed to our academic resurgence.

For example, our high school graduation rate increased 16 percentage points from 2011 – 74% to 90% now. Our middle school registered four consecutive years of academic growth and was recently recognized by the education reform group ConnCAN as a “Success Story” school. Third grade Reading, Writing and Math scores in 2013 were above the state average. The Milken Foundation recently recognized Metacomet Elementary School principal Desi Nesmith with its prestigious award for education leadership.

In March, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform published an extensive online profile – located at – about Bloomfield’s successful strategies to reduce the academic achievement gap. Connecticut historically has held the widest achievement gap in the country.

There have been two key contributors to our resurgence. First, is the leadership of Superintendent Dr. James Thompson Jr. When hired in 2011, he established a vision rooted in the strategic use of data; rigor; a positive school climate; and family/community engagement. Those priorities set a strong foundation for academic achievement. Staff and stakeholders endorsed and executed the vision. The other factor that spurred our academic growth is the harmonious and collaborative relationship between the superintendent and the school board. We understand our respective roles. I can’t emphasize enough how much a unified school board contributes to the academic success of a school system, particularly one that had been under-performing.Read More »

ICYMI: Why Do We Need Assessments?

In case you missed it, we’re reposting the Connecticut Assessment FAQ, we developed in collaboration with:

  • The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents
  • The Connecticut Association of Boards of Education
  • The Connecticut Association of Schools
  • ConnCAN
  • The Connecticut Business & Industry Association

CT-Assessment-FAQ-e1440439126290-769x1024 CT-Assessment-FAQ2-e1440439190621-755x1024

Feel free to share! Download the full PDF here.

EducationBridgeport: My, That’s a Very Convincing Straw Man – or Why Superintendent Scarice’s Commentary on Testing is Bogus

Here’s a challenge for Madison Superintendent Thomas Scarice: Find me the activist or politician who thinks a student’s ability to answer academic questions correctly on a test can accurately describe the entire meaning and value of that student’s life?

That’s essentially what Scarice is accusing the “educational community” of doing in his recent Op-Ed for the Connecticut Mirror.

Scarice would be hard-pressed to find an education reform advocate who’d argue against the importance of context.

While on a WNPR panel back in March discussing the new Common Core aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform Jeffrey Villar told reporter John Dankosky, “I agree, numbers do not tell the whole story. Numbers are actually the beginning of the conversation.”

Is your mind blown yet?

Read the full story here.


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