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CCER and the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) Join Forces

We Have Exciting News About the Future of Our Work!

Since its inception, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) has been a strong voice for improving public education. Born out of a gubernatorial commission tasked with developing high-leverage policies to narrow Connecticut’s achievement gap—CCER has been an effective advocate for state-level change. More than twenty of our policy positions were contained in the 2012 omnibus education bill, and we’ve collaborated since then with a wide spectrum of partners to keep improving public education. We’ve participated in state committees, given input to top state officials, and made sure that the needs of Connecticut’s students remained front and center for the legislature, year after year.

At the same time, we’ve worked with Connecticut’s highest-need school districts, providing free, capacity building support—with an emphasis on business-oriented strategies like leadership development, using data to track progress, and strategic planning. Our recent report, Focus: How Longterm Planning Processes Can Improve StateLed Turnaround in Connecticut, held a mirror up to the state’s efforts to turn around the 30 lowest performing school districts. And our very well-attended state conferences have been a consistent forum for educators to discuss best practices that meet student needs.

Now, it’s time to think even bigger.

Recognizing the importance of education to businesses in Connecticut, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) has decided to expand its efforts at improving public education. Since our beginning, we’ve always reflected business views on the need for education reform, and CBIA has been a close ally all along. Our Board of Directors recently voted to join with CBIA in a union that will strengthen our voice in pushing to improve public education.

CCER’s board will continue to guide us from within the CBIA framework. We will be joining their ranks under a new name: the CBIA Education & Workforce Partnership. CBIA has more than 8,000 business members who all have a stake in ensuring that students complete high school ready to succeed. Under this new partnership, we will continue to advance statewide capacity building and policy efforts—while representing the interests and voice of Connecticut businesses. I will become Vice President for Education Policy at CBIA and will continue to work with CCER’s Board.

Our collective resources and connections will both maximize our efforts to improve public education and better represent business interests. We are excited for the potential that this partnership creates.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CCER Urges State Board to Reject PEAC Recommendation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, March 29, 2017, the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) recommended that the state mastery test not be used as a measure of goal attainment for educator evaluations. According to the PEAC recommendation to the State Board of Education, state mastery results can still be used to inform professional development, but cannot be included in an educator’s formal student learning objectives (SLOs). In response to PEAC’s recommendation, Jeffrey Villar—Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)—made the following statement:

“When the original teacher evaluation model was developed in 2012, there was general agreement that teacher performance needed to be linked to student outcomes. However, the model has never been fully implemented statewide because of decisions, year-after-year, to temporarily ‘de-couple’ assessment results from teacher evaluations. Just this past fall, a superior court judge in the CCJEF trial referred to the evaluation model—as currently implemented—as “little more than cotton candy in a rainstorm.” PEAC’s vote today fails to address these shortcomings.Read More »

Bringing the Alliance District Program into Focus

Connecticut’s 30 highest-need districts have been called the “Alliance Districts” since 2012. Each year, they receive increased state funding in exchange for producing annual district improvement plans. In total, the state has invested almost half a billion dollars in this program since its inception. In theory, the purpose of these extra funds is to promote innovation. However, many district leaders have reported needing to use the funding to cover much more routine expenses, due to reductions in local funding.

To date, no formal study has been conducted to measure the impact of the Alliance District program overall.

Focus: How Long-term Planning Processes Can Improve State-Led Turnaround in Connecticut is a study of the Alliance District program that was conducted by a research team at the Neag School of Education at UConn. It analyzes the effectiveness of the required annual district improvement plans as tools for change. In addition, it explores the link between these plans and some positive outcomes that districts within the program have seen over time. The findings in this study raise important implications for how best to strengthen the Alliance District program and leverage state improvement dollars.Read More »

True Viral News: Two Connecticut School Systems, for the Rich and Poor

For close to half a century, the aim of scores of lawsuits about public schools across the country has been to require states to improve education for students by spending a lot more money. When the case of Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. M. Jodi Rell began, in 2005, that was its goal, too. Last week, after sixty days of a bench trial, Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher, of the Connecticut Superior Court, said that the judiciary cannot set the amount of money the state must spend on education. In a smartly written, sometimes sardonic, and unusually pointed ninety-page opinion, he focused instead on how the state is spending the billions of dollars it does on education and concluded that it is failing miserably.

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a bipartisan and moderate group of business and civic leaders, has proposed rationalization of schools as a way to deal with declining enrollment in more than three-quarters of the state’s towns.

Read the full piece here.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CCER Releases Findings of Alliance District Study

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of CCER, along with State Representative Susan Johnson, released the findings of a study conducted by the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. The study, commissioned by CCER, looks at the impact of the Alliance District program and provides insights into how effective planning and monitoring of performance data can lead to improved results.

The study, Focus: How Long-term Planning Processes Can Improve State-Led Turnaround in Connecticut, begins to examine the Alliance District program by analyzing the effectiveness of the annual district improvement plans as tools for change, as well as the link between these plans and some of the positive outcomes that districts within the program have seen over time. Conducted by a research team at the Neag School of Education of the University of Connecticut, this study produces findings with important implications for how best to strengthen the Alliance District program and leverage state improvement dollars.

“The study is important because it highlights the power and potential of improvement planning as a tool for raising outcomes for students in our highest-need districts.” said Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of CCER. “Specifically, investing in the skills and talents of employees, aligning all elements of the system towards focused outcomes, and careful implementation of research-based practices appear to be necessary components to any effective plan.”

Villar added, “The study also suggests that disruptions in leadership—both at the state-level and in our districts—can impact effective implementation and detract from improvement efforts. To me, though, it appears from the research that the state’s focus on district planning can really be a high-leverage strategy for turning around districts. With consistency in leadership and plan requirements, we can anticipate continued growth among the Alliance Districts.”

Speaking about the improvement that the Windham Public Schools has seen on the metrics that CCER explored, Representative Susan Johnson said, “I am very proud of Windham’s improvement over the past several years. I believe that the district’s improvement plan—emphasizing focus, extended classroom time, capacity-building, and data-monitoring practices—has played a big role in the progress we are making together as a community. The study by the Neag School of Education emphasizes what we have always believed: that long-term commitment to a well-thought out plan will help raise outcomes for our students. In addition, it’s important for the state to continue providing our highest-need districts with the funding they need to improve.”

Dr. Jennie Weiner, the study’s lead research from the Neag School of Education at UConn, said, “This research is important for two key reasons. First, as key documents in publicly articulating districts’ improvement agendas, the Alliance District Plans give us initial insights into how districts are thinking about and likely directing resources towards improvement. Second, these plans take time and resources for district actors to create, negotiate, and monitor. They also serve as the gateway to millions of taxpayer dollars to increase the ability of chronically under-performing and often under-resourced schools to better serve Connecticut’s students. Therefore, any information we might glean about how to make these plans and the planning process more effective is worthwhile and important.”

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 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 www.ctedreform.org

 

Focus: How Long‑term Planning Processes Can Improve State‑Led Turnaround in Connecticut

The focus of this report, commissioned by the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) and executed by a research team at the Neag School of Education of the University of Connecticut, is to provide insights into how Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts—those with the greatest need and a large external investment by the state to support improvement—articulate their yearly improvement plans. It was also to begin to ascertain how these different articulations may relate to different aspects of improved performance.

  • Click here to access the full report by the Neag School of Education.
  • Click here for CCER’s policy implications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CT Viewpoints (opinion): The General Assembly needs facts, not falsehoods

A recent story in the CT Mirror described a presentation to reporters a few weeks ago by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA), the largest teachers’ union, in which union leaders attempted to expose the spending practices of charter schools. The problem is that the report the CEA was referencing was deliberately misleading –seeking to villainize charter schools during a tight budget year in which education funding will be a key issue.

When a report such as the one released by the CEA utterly ignores nuance or context, it isn’t a sound foundation for an honest and reasonable conversation about how to improve the state’s education funding. Instead, take a look at these six principles for improved education funding, agreed to by a coalition of education stakeholders representing varied constituencies. In the interest of full disclosure, my organization is one of the signatories. We have been debating and analyzing and learning in great detail for more than 2 years in pursuit of real solutions.

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Governor Proposes Changes to School Funding

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, February 8, 2017, Governor Malloy’s budget address addressed, among other issues, changes to the state’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. State education dollars are supposed to be distributed based on the ECS formula, which has been revised numerous times and is currently not being followed at all. In response to the Governor’s address, Jeffrey Villar—Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)—made the following statement:

“These proposed changes to ECS are a first step towards solving an important problem in our state. CCER is part of a coalition of education stakeholders that has spent over two years analyzing ECS and contemplating solutions to make it more fair, equitable, and predictable. In line with that coalition’s design principles for improvement, CCER would like to see a new ECS formula based on the following six principles: (1) equitably funding all schools, based on student need; (2) incentivizing innovation and efficiency in support of mastery-based learning; (3) coherence in terms of applicability to all school types; (4) transparency and predictability; (5) fairness in determination of the amount of aid for each community—based on a combination of factors, including multiple measures of property and income conditions, and concentration of low-income students; and (6) transparency of district expenditures, in furtherance of accountability.

“The Governor’s budget indicated a willingness to address many of these principles through measures such as basing the new formula on current enrollment numbers and replacing the current measure for poverty—eligibility for free and reduced priced lunch—for a more precise measure, HUSKY A data.

“In his address, the Governor observed that, ‘education is economic development.’ But if we are truly interested in improving public education so that we can establish a pipeline of skilled and prepared workers in our state, we need to do more than tweak the funding formula. We can’t lose sight of the myriad other issues, raised by the judge in CCJEF v. Rell, that must be resolved if Connecticut students are going to get the education they deserve. Among these issues is that we need to find a more meaningful way of intervening in persistently low-performing districts, ensure that all students are reading at grade-level by third grade, and ensure that when students graduate from high school, they are graduating prepared for success in colleges and careers.

“I feel confident and hopeful that the legislature will engage in meaningful discussions about these and other ideas impacting Connecticut students this legislative session.”

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 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 www.ctedreform.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Governor Takes First Step on Education Funding, But More is Needed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, February 6, 2017, Governor Malloy issued a press release indicating his proposed changes to the state’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. The ECS formula, which is supposed to be used to determine the distribution of state education dollars to local districts, has been revised numerous times and is currently not being followed at all. In a recent court decision that attracted national attention, CCJEF v. Rell, a judge determined that Connecticut’s current funding formula is unconstitutional because it allocates resources irrationally. Governor Malloy observed in his statement that the state must not wait for further court orders before working to correct this problem. In response to the Governor’s press release, Jeffrey Villar—Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)—made the following statement:

 

“CCER is optimistic about these proposed changes to ECS. We are part of a coalition of education stakeholders that has spent over two years analyzing ECS and contemplating solutions to make it more fair, equitable, and predictable. In line with that coalition’s design principles for improvement, CCER believes that a new ECS formula must address the following six principles: (1) equitably funding all schools, based on student need; (2) incentivizing innovation and efficiency in support of mastery-based learning; (3) coherence in terms of applicability to all school types; (4) transparency and predictability; (5) fairness in determination of the amount of aid for each community—based on a combination of factors, including multiple measures of property and income conditions, and concentration of low-income students; and (6) transparency of district expenditures, in furtherance of accountability.

“By using HUSKY A data to more accurately measure poverty, and by basing the formula on current enrollment—the Governor’s proposal sounds as though it would begin to address many of these principles.

“However, CCER would also advocate for the points outlined in the coalition’s design principles, such as the consideration of additional funding weights for communities that have high densities of poverty. In addition, the state needs to do more to ensure that all schools, including schools of choice, receive the same levels of funding so that they can meet their students’ needs.

“We look forward to further details of the Governor’s proposal, including the potential impact of de-coupling special education funding, in the coming weeks.”

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 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 www.ctedreform.org

 

CCER’s 2016 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 2016, 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.

 

 

 

 

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