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A Teacher’s Insights: Why We Need Standards

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Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a look at policy in action in each of our 6 recommendation areas. We’ve already looked at longitudinal data systems that are used to drive accountability. This week, let’s hear directly from a teacher about why Common Core and the new associated assessment systems are important and valuable to the teaching profession.

Take a look at these examples of third grade math assessment questions from the CMT and Smarter Balanced tests. How do they compare?

At first glance, these two questions may appear very similar, but they reveal several key changes for students and teachers in the upcoming Common Core assessments. (In Massachusetts, where I teach, we will be using PARCC assessments. In Connecticut, you’ll use Smarter Balanced.)

The CMT question provides a scenario that students are required to model as a mathematical equation by selecting the correct equation from four choices. The Smarter Balanced question also provides a scenario that students are required to model as a mathematical equation; however, it requires students to create the model of the situation, instead of picking it from several options.

This small change is a significant shift. By moving beyond the multiple-choice format, this Smarter Balanced question removes the presence of a correct answer, the ability to guess a correct response, or the possibility that test prep strategies helped to eliminate answer choices. Instead, the Smarter Balanced question requires that a student must know the relevant mathematics to answer correctly.

In awarding points, the Smarter Balanced test considers both (a) the process of arriving at the correct answer and (b) the actual correct answer. In this way, students who arrive at the correct answer (22) are rewarded with some of the points, but students who can also represent how they got that answer ((3×8)-2) are awarded additional points.  As a result there is a more complete assessment of what students know and are able to do. This emphasis on mastery of content over test preparation allows teachers to better understand our students’ misconceptions as well as their strengths.Read More »

ConnCAN Builds Teacher and Administrator Contract Databases

There is nothing more important to our students’ educations than the teachers and leaders in our schools. The collective bargaining agreements that define the scope of their employment are key drivers for policy and practice.

That’s why, over the last two weeks, ConnCAN has released two impressive online databases analyzing district teacher and administrator contracts. Now, not only do you have easily searchable access to every district’s collective bargaining agreement, but you can also easily compare them between districts. This is a user-friendly resource for teachers, parents, policymakers, and stakeholders.Read More »

So What Does a Quality Longitudinal Data System Look Like?

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a look at policy in action in each of our 6 recommendation areas. Up first: the need to develop a longitudinal data system to drive accountability and decision-making.

We need a quality, statewide data system in Connecticut. Last month, when we released our 2013 Policy Progress Report, one of its critical findings was that without one, Connecticut is going to have a hard time effectively implementing reforms and knowing if they’ve truly been successful. A meaningful statewide system would allow us to track the achievement of every student in Connecticut from pre-K through college, compile a variety of types of information (not just CMT/CAPT scores), tease out trends based on comparable information, and set state policies accordingly.

That’s why the Data Quality Campaign has identified 10 “State Actions” as a roadmap for states to develop quality longitudinal data systems. Every year, they publish a report on the progress being made in this area across the nation. Their 2012 report reveals that, although no state has completed all 10 “actions” yet, some are well on their way! With many actions completed so far, Connecticut is making solid progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do.Read More »

The Journal Inquirer: Closing the achievement gap

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By Steve Simmons

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform recently released its 2013 Policy Progress Report, which introduces a new rubric to measure Connecticut’s progress in passing and implementing education reforms at the state level. These reforms are designed to close Connecticut’s widest-in-the-nation achievement gap.

Ensuring that our low-income students are achieving at the same level as their more affluent peers is both a moral and economic imperative.

Not only does our persistent achievement gap impede our ability to break the cycle of poverty, but it also damages our state’s economy. Nearly 8,000 Connecticut students drop out of high school each year — each one costing the state approximately $500,000 in increased social service expenses and lost revenues over the course of his/her lifetime. Of those students who do graduate from high school in Connecticut, only 44 percent are college- or career-ready, leaving many graduates unable to earn a living wage.

The bottom line is that a significant part of Connecticut’s public education system is in crisis, and we must change the status quo if we’re going to fix it.

The rubric in our report is designed to hold the state accountable for doing just that. It measures Connecticut’s progress in adopting the policies within CCER’s 10-year plan to narrow the achievement gap, and only awards points when policies both have been passed and are being put into practice.

While Connecticut is off to a strong start — having put 31 percent of the policies into action in only two years — the newly released report reveals that there is still much more work to be done.

Connecticut has made meaningful progress in several important areas.

For example, the state has reformed teacher tenure and established a new evaluation and support system that links educator effectiveness to student growth. Connecticut has also begun to use a new framework for turning around our lowest-performing schools and districts.

Additionally, Connecticut has earned points for having a strong, reform-oriented leadership team in place at the state level.

However, our 2013 policy progress report highlights numerous areas where the state still needs to improve.

One pervasive problem is that Connecticut lacks a quality data system to track students’ progress from preschool to college and/or the workforce. Such a system is a critical tool for monitoring and helping students, as well as evaluating school personnel and policies.

Connecticut also needs to set higher expectations for all students. That means fully implementing the Common Core and establishing mastery-based standards that all students must meet before they can graduate from high school.

It also means measuring students’ progress more frequently so that we know when they’re falling behind and can quickly provide interventions that will help them catch up. Of critical importance is the need to ensure that all low-income 3- and 4-year-olds — who are often already behind — have the opportunity to participate in high-quality preschool experiences.

The state also must broaden its pool of talented teachers and leaders. Although we have done a lot in two years to ensure that the teachers and leaders within our system will be effective, we’ve made almost no progress in implementing policies to bring in new talent. We need to improve the preparation of our educators, and overcome the ridiculous barriers that keep outstanding leadership in other states from crossing the border to work in Connecticut.

As the chairman of CCER, I applaud the progress that has been made so far. But our hard work has only just begun. We need to continue to pass additional needed reforms and work to implement those that have been enacted.

Every Connecticut child deserves an exceptional education, without exception.

Read the full article here.

Our Report Reveals There’s Much Work Left to Do!

The release of our 2013 Policy Progress Report this week highlights the fact that much progress has been made to advance and implement state-level education reforms. However, even after passing a landmark education reform bill in 2012 and defending funding for these impressive reform packages in 2013, it’s clear that there’s still tons of work left to do.

So what’s new in this report? This year, we’ve introduced a rubric that will help us to hold all Connecticut stakeholders accountable for making the changes we need to narrow our widest-in-the-nation achievement gap. The rubric outlines a 10-year plan, and in just the first two years, Connecticut has already earned 31% of the available points.Read More »

Steve Simmons Speaks on the Mary Jones Show

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With the release of our new 2013 Policy Progress Report, Steven Simmons discussed the work that remains to be done on the Mary Jones Show. There’s still a lot to do before every child receives an exceptional education, without exception. Listen here!

For Immediate Release: CCER Releases 2013 Policy Progress Report

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New Haven, Connecticut – The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), today released its 2013 Policy Progress Report, a body of work that measures how much progress the state is making on passing and implementing state-level education reforms.

The comprehensive study indicates a strong first year of implementation, but shows significantly more work lies ahead as Connecticut attempts to shrink its widest-in-the-nation achievement gap.

“We have seen great progress for the first year; but this is a ten-year journey, and the achievement gap is not going to narrow overnight,” said Ramani Ayer, vice-chairman of the Board.

Read More »

The Norwhch Bulletin: Progress is being made in closing achievement gap

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By Steven Simmons

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) released its 2013 Policy Progress Report, which tracks the passage and implementation of a 10-year plan to narrow Connecticut’s widest-in-the-nation achievement gap.

Helping low-income students achieve at the same level as their peers is a moral and economic imperative. Not only does our persistent achievement gap impede our ability to break the cycle of poverty, it also damages our state’s economy.

Nearly 8,000 Connecticut students drop out of high school every year, each costing the state approximately $500,000 in social service expenses and lost revenues over his or her lifetime.

Of the students who do finish high school, only 44 percent are college- or career-ready. Many won’t earn a living wage.

New policies in place

The bottom line: If we’re going to fix Connecticut’s education crisis, we must change the status quo. The rubric in CCER’s report is designed to hold the state accountable for doing just that. Points are awarded only when CCER’s policies have actually been put into practice.

We’re off to a strong start, but despite having implemented 31 percent of these policies in only two years, we still has plenty left to do.

Meaningful progress has been made. Teacher tenure has been reformed and established evaluations linking educator effectiveness to student growth implemented. Also implemented is a new framework for turning around our lowest-performing schools.

Still more to do

One pervasive problem is the lack of a quality data system to track students’ progress from preschool to college and/or the workforce. Without it, we can’t properly monitor students or evaluate education practices.

We need to set higher expectations for all students. That means fully implementing the Common Core and requiring high school students to demonstrate mastery of content before graduation. It means measuring students’ progress more frequently so that we can intervene sooner. For low-income three- and four-year olds, it also means providing high-quality preschool experiences.

Another problem is that we’ve done little to broaden the pool of talented educators. We need to improve educator preparation programs, and overcome the ridiculous barriers that keep outstanding leadership in other states from crossing the border to work here.

I applaud the progress made so far. But Connecticut’s hard work has only just begun. We must continue to challenge the status quo if we want every child to have an exceptional education, without exception.

 

Read the full article here.

Hartford Courant: Reform Group Says State Has Much Left to Do to Improve Education

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By KATHLEEN MEGAN

A school reform group is giving the state high marks for adding new leadership to public education, adopting more rigorous academic standards and tying teacher tenure to teacher effectiveness.

But in a report to be released Tuesday morning in New Haven, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform says the state must go further and tie teachers’ compensation to their performance evaluation, raise the number of children in pre-kindergarten programs and ensure that more low-achieving students get remedial help.

“This is a ten-year journey, it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Ramani Ayer, vice chairman of the council and the former CEO and chairman of The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc.Read More »

The Courant: Windsor School Superintendnet Leaving to Lead School Reform Group

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By David Owens and Steven Goode

WINDSOR — Superintendent Jeffrey A. Villar is leaving his post to lead the nonprofit Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

A week ago, the town received the results of a controversial study that sought to explain why black and Latino students lag behind their white counterparts in achievement in the town’s schools. Villar said it provided lots for parents and school officials to discuss.

The recommendations of the Excellence and Equity Review, Villar said, offer “a lot to digest, a lot to come to agreement on” and that he hoped the community and school board could come together in analyzing the study’s findings. Read More »

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