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CCER on Mornings with Ray Dunaway

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On January 10th, Jeffrey Villar interviewed with Ray Dunaway to talk about our 2014 legislative agenda. Catch the clip from Mornings with Ray Dunaway here.

For Immediate Release: Connecticut Council for Education Reform Releases Its 2014 Legislative Agenda

New Haven, Connecticut – The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), today released its policy priorities for the 2014 legislative session. Jeffrey Villar, CCER’s executive director, said the organization’s primary priority is to protect the education reforms passed through legislation in 2012 and 2013.

“The key to a more prosperous future for our state is providing every single child with a world-class education,” Villar said. “That’s why we need to sustain the reform efforts that began in 2012, and we need to support their successful implementation. That means no de-funding. No delays.”

CCER’s four other priorities for this coming legislative session are to:

  • Provide the preschool experience to all Connecticut children from low-income families so that they get the starts they deserve–regardless of their family’s income;
  • Remove unnecessary barriers that discourage talented district leaders from working in Connecticut;
  • Ensure that education dollars are invested where they will be most effective, like funding extended learning opportunities; and
  • Jumpstart the development of a quality statewide longitudinal data system in Connecticut that allows us to track the achievement of every student from pre-K through college.

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CCER Presents Recommendations to State Board of Education

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On January 8th, Jeffrey Villar, executive director of CCER, made a presentation to the State Board of Education (SBOE). View the PowerPoint with recommendations to the SBOE here.

For Immediate Release: CCER’s Executive Director, Former Superintendent of a SEED Pilot District, Comments on Neag Study

New Haven, Conn–With yesterday’s release by the Neag School of Education of its report on the pilot implementation of SEED—CCER’s executive director, Jeffrey Villar, reflected on his experience leading one of the districts that piloted the program. “I was pleased that Neag’s study shows the Connecticut System for Educator Evaluation and Development (SEED) to be making positive changes in practice amongst teachers and administrators,” said Villar. “I was the superintendent of one of the pilot districts that implemented SEED, and I saw the very same positive changes taking place in my district.”
 
The Neag report–titled “An Evaluation of the Pilot Implementation of Connecticut’s System for Educator Evaluation and Development”–is based upon data collected within the eight districts and two consortia that piloted the SEED program between September 2012 and October 2013. Hundreds of interviews and surveys were conducted amongst district and school leadership, teachers, union leaders, and representatives of Regional Educational Service Centers.

The findings show that the program has already had a measurable impact on the professional practice of educators, who are generally supportive of the model and believe it can have a positive impact over time. Indeed the majority of educators within the pilot districts reported increased time spent on evaluation activities, with valuable and reliable results. However, the study finds that teachers and leaders would still benefit from higher levels of support as this new evaluation model is rolled out.

“When we were piloting the program in my district,” Villar reported, “it was very clear that we need to be providing administrators with more time and training on how to provide actionable feedback to their teachers. Like any complex system, it has to be implemented properly if it is going to be a success. I am excited that the pilot was a success, and CCER looks forward to supporting districts as they continue to implement this program”.

Dr. Villar has spent almost two decades within Connecticut’s public education system, and he now heads up CCER, working to reform the educational system so that every child receives an exceptional education, without exception.

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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 »

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