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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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What We Mean by “District-Level Supports”: Example 2–Funding Analysis

This year–as CCER began to expand its work to provide support to public school districts –we partnered with an urban school district serving more than 18,000 Connecticut students. Our plan was to support the District in re-thinking some of its core management systems (e.g. human capital, finance, data, operations, and governance) because we believe that school systems need to have high-quality, strategic systems in place if they are going to effectively implement strategies to raise student achievement.

Earlier this week, we posted a blog about how we provided this District with supports to transform its human capital system. In a second project with the District, CCER partnered with Education Resource Strategies (ERS) to analyze the District’s spending. Our objective here was to “hold a mirror” up to the District and provide a holistic picture of how it currently allocates its resources. The idea was that this information would help the District to make data-driven decisions about trade-offs so that it could fund its most important priorities and improve student achievement.Read More »

What We Mean by “District-Level Supports”: Example 1–Human Capital

This year–as CCER began to expand its work to provide support to public school districts–we partnered with an urban school district serving more than 18,000 Connecticut students. Our plan was to support the District in re-thinking some of its core management systems (e.g. human capital, finance, data, operations, and governance) because we believe that school systems need to have high-quality, strategic systems in place if they are going to effectively implement strategies to raise student achievement.

Our first project was to transform the District’s human capital system. Using the then-existing system, the District was struggling to recruit and retain high-quality teachers and leaders.

In order to transform the human capital system, we broke down our project into two objectives: (a) recommend new strategies for recruitment and hiring; and (b) improve the effectiveness of the District’s human resources (HR) department.Read More »

For Immediate Release: CCER Expands Its Work to Support Districts in Implementing Reforms

New Haven–In an online newsletter today, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) announced that it has expanded its core work to include providing school districts with supports to raise student achievement. Previously, the organization had focused primarily on advocating for state-level policies.

“Our mission is to close the achievement gap while raising academic outcomes for all public school students in Connecticut,” said Jeffrey Villar, executive director of CCER. “Since its inception, CCER has worked hard at the state-level to advocate for policies that are shown to close gaps in achievement. But we also know that we need to turn these policies into good practices within the schools and districts if we want to reach a day when every child receives a first class education.”

CCER believes that school districts need strong core management systems if they are going to boost student achievement. However, busy district leaders often lack the time necessary to rethink how management systems are working. Free support from CCER might help these leaders to tackle such systems in a strategic and district-wide fashion—ultimately for the purpose of raising student achievement.

The organization has already completed two such projects in a large, urban school district, where two core management systems (human capital and district finance) were analyzed and systemic changes were recommended. 

“We aren’t ceasing to advocate for the same policies,” cautioned Villar. “We are merely pursuing them through an additional avenue. Now, our organization will be protecting them at the state-level, while simultaneously advancing them at the district-level.”

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Supporting Public School Districts

CCER’s mission is to close the achievement gap while raising academic outcomes for all public school students in Connecticut. Over the past two years we’ve advocated for policies aimed at accomplishing this goal. But, along the way we have learned that many school systems need more support for the reforms to be fully effective.

CCER believes that school systems need to have high-quality, well-functioning core management systems (e.g. human capital, finance, data, operations, and governance) in place if they are going to effectively implement strategies to raise student achievement. However, overwhelmed district leaders are often left trying to raise student achievement without first being able to address the need to strategically rework their management systems.

That’s why CCER has begun to expand its work by providing district-level supports (in addition to sustaining its state-level policy efforts). We believe that in order for state-level policies to truly impact the stakeholders who matter—the students—these policies must be implemented properly at the school and district levels. Having strong core management systems is key to enabling district leaders to focus on the practices that can raise student achievement.Read More »

Understanding This Year’s District Scorecards

Yesterday, the Connecticut State Department of Education released annual scorecards for Connecticut’s schools and districts. These scorecards are part of a new accountability system that is being fully implemented for the first time this year. (It was developed as part of our waiver from No Child Left Behind, and it works in concert with the accountability components of Connecticut’s 2012 landmark education reform bill.)

The School Performance Index (SPI) and District Performance Index (DPI) are numbers that give us a snapshot of the performance of each school and district. Previously, there was no system of monitoring the overall progress of a school or district.

For example, in the past, if you had wanted to find out about the achievement level of a district, you would have had to look at CMT/CAPT results for grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10. And each of those grade-level results was then broken down into tiers of performance (Below Basic, Basic, Proficient, Goal, Advanced). As a result, you had specific information in each of those areas, so you were able to say, “X percent of 3rd graders scored at goal in this district.” But you lacked any whole-district assessment to tell you whether the district was performing well or not.Read More »

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 »

For Immediate Release: School and District Score Cards Show Much Work Still to Be Done

New Haven, Conn.–Today, the Connecticut State Department of Education released its annual scorecard for schools and districts in Connecticut. This is the first year this new accountability system is fully implemented, as approved by the U.S. Department of Education as part of Connecticut’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver in 2012.

“This report is an important tool that allows parents, district and school leaders, and other stakeholders to get a “snapshot” of how Connecticut’s school and districts are performing. It allows us to see where we are doing well and where we need to continue to improve,” said Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

“This year’s scorecard shows that significant gaps in achievement continue to persistent between low-income children and their more affluent peers,” said Villar, “but there are’bright spots’ in this year’s report. For example, the number of ‘focus’ schools—schools that have particularly poor performance amongst Black, Hispanic, and low-income subgroups—has decreased from 55 in 2012 to 42 schools in 2013.”

“Perhaps the most important takeaway here is that we need to be vigilant about implementing the landmark education reforms that came out of the 2012 legislative session,” Villar concluded. “They remain our best hope of getting to a day when every child in Connecticut receives a first class education.”

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PISA Results: Connecticut Keeps Up on the International Test

Yesterday, the 2012 results from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released. PISA, which is coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is administered every three years to countries and economies across the world. The largest international study of student performance, PISA assesses students’ ability to apply acquired knowledge in math, science, and reading in real-world contexts. The 2012 test, which was administered globally to more than 510,000 students, revealed some interesting trends.Read More »

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