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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CCER Pleased with Outcome of 2014 Session

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

CCER Pleased with Outcome of 2014 Session

New Haven, Connecticut –Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), today released the following statement about the conclusion of the 2014 legislative session:

“CCER came into the legislative session with two primary objectives: to make sure the reforms that were been passed over the last two years stayed in place, and to expand preschool opportunities for children from low-income families. Now that the session has come to a close, it’s clear both of those things happened, so we’re very pleased.

“This session, both the Common Core State Standards and the teacher evaluation and support system came under intense scrutiny. These reform efforts are designed to raise academic standards; provide teachers with more professional development and opportunities to delve deeply into content with their students; and increase accountability for learning. Despite substantial efforts to delay or block the implementation of these improvements to public education, both reform efforts remain in place.

“In addition, new legislative actions were taken to expand preschool opportunities. We’ve codified the Office of Early Childhood into law, increased the number of School Readiness slots, and established a grant program to fund the expansion of district preschool services. Each of these steps is intended to increase preschool opportunities in Connecticut.

“None of this would’ve been possible without a strong spirit of collaboration amongst all stakeholders in education reform.  We are grateful to our colleagues in the Big Six, to Connecticut’s legislators, and to the administrations of Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor. All of them continue to make improving public education a priority in our state.”


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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: National Test Results Show Reforms Are Working in CT

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

National Test Results Show Reforms Are Working in CT

New Haven, Connecticut – On May 7th, 2014, Connecticut received promising news about its results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). NAEP, sometimes known as “the Nation’s Report Card,” allows states to compare results, while also reporting on states’ progress in narrowing gaps.

In response to the results released today, Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) made this statement:

“We saw particularly promising progress in 12th Grade Math and Reading. Overall, our twelfth graders topped the nation in both of these subjects, coming in first place for Reading and performing impressively in Math.Read More »

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CCER Applauds Malloy and Legislature for Codifying Office of Early Childhood

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

CCER Applauds Malloy and Legislature for Codifying Office of Early Childhood

New Haven, Connecticut – On May 5, 2014, Governor Malloy praised the General Assembly for passing legislation to establish the Office of Early Childhood (OEC). The OEC’s establishment follows an unusual turn of events a year ago, when the General Assembly failed to pass a bill creating the OEC, while the state budget still allocated funding to its creation. As a result, Malloy had created the OEC by executive order. The legislature’s action this session ensures the office’s continuity by placing it into statute. 

In response today, Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) made this statement:Read More »

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Do Not Cut Education Funding. It is Critical to the Health of the State’s Economy.

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

CCER: Do Not Cut Education Funding. It is Critical to the Health of the State’s Economy. 

New Haven, Connecticut – On Friday, April 25th, the Office of Fiscal Analysis reported that tax revenues have been lower than expected for this fiscal year, which means the State will need to reduce expenditures. In the face of potential budget cuts, Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), released the following statement:

“We are pleased that the Malloy administration still plans to fund its top priorities: investing in education and economic development. These two priorities are critically linked. Any cuts to education or the education reform budget would be both shortsighted and irresponsible.

“In Connecticut, each high school dropout costs Connecticut more than $500,000 over the course of his or her lifetime. This is because students who don’t have a high school diploma both earn less and require more social services than their peers who graduate. ForRead More »

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CCER Says Modifications to Evaluation System Should Not Diminish Teacher Accountability

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

CCER: Modifications to Evaluation System Should Not Diminish Teacher Accountability

New Haven, Connecticut – On Thursday, April 24th, the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) proposed changes to Connecticut’s teacher evaluation and support system. These modifications have yet to be reviewed by the State Board of Education.

Today, Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) made this statement:

“I was the superintendent of a district that piloted the new teacher evaluation and support system last year, and I believe it to be a strong and important step towards establishing teacher accountability across the state. By directly tying teachers’ effectiveness to their students’ growth in learning, we are reshaping the way we think about a teacher’s responsibilities. The model works well for evaluating teachers who teach subjects with available standardized assessments.

“CCER opposes efforts to relax accountability or to provide loopholes that will eliminate the requirement of standardized indicators as a component of evaluations.Read More »

The ABCs of ECS

In this post, we’ll summarize the role of the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula, the way it works, and how it’s dolled out. You can click on the different variables of the formula to find out exactly where those numbers come from as well. But we warn you, this post is not for the faint of heart!

Since we divide our State up into school districts, the State and the towns each bear some of the costs of each district’s public school system. In Connecticut, public schools are primarily funded through municipal property taxes, and the State makes a supplementary contribution to each public school system. However, the State can’t simply make the same grant to every district because some towns can more easily finance education than others. In fact, in 1977, the Connecticut Supreme Court determined that a system that allows “property wealthy” towns to spend more on education with less effort is a system that impedes children’s constitutional rights to an equal education.

That’s why Connecticut established a formula for distributing state education dollars, which uses property wealth as part of the determination. The Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula was established in 1988 and has been revised numerous times. Theoretically, the State grant would make up the difference between what a community can afford to pay and what a district’s public school system actually costs.

Connecticut uses three variables to determine how much a community must raise from its property taxes to cover education, and how much the State must contribute to offset these costs:

  • The average estimated cost of educating a child (“Foundation”);
  • A calculation that considers the number of students within a town, including groups of students that are typically more costly to educate because they have greater needs (“Need Students”); and
  • Each community’s ability to financially support education (“Base Aid Ratio”)

In order to find each town’s entitlement to the state education grant, we multiply these variables together. We’re essentially multiplying the (cost per student) by the (number of students, adjusted slightly to account for needier groups)– which yields the total amount that it should cost to educate the children within the town. Then, we multiply that overall cost by the percentage that a town has the capacity to cover (Base Aid Ratio). All together, the formula looks like this:


Foundation x Need Students x Base Aid Ratio
= Town’s Entitlement to the ECS Grant

(Click on “Foundation,” “Need Students,” and “Base Aid Ratio”
to find out how these variables are calculated.)

Read More »

CT Mirror: Recommendations to the Common Core Task Force

By Jeffrey Villar and Ramani Ayer

Recently, Connecticut has seen intense debate around the Common Core State Standards. In the face of compelling data that show our existing system of education is not up to snuff, there is now a general consensus about the need to raise academic standards. However, considerable anxiety has arisen over Connecticut’s readiness to implement the Common Core effectively. The concern is valid, since state support was initially anemic and district capacity for implementation is still uneven…

The Educators’ Common Core Implementation Taskforce, which met for the second time on April 9th, has been asked to come up with methods of strengthening Common Core implementation.

Let’s stop the rhetoric and misinformation, and start focusing on implementation. Let’s rally behind our educators as they tackle the very important work of preparing every child to succeed in the globally competitive 21st century.

See the full opinion here.

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed: What I’ve Learned Teaching Charter Schools



One seventh grader asked me, ‘Why are so many people mad at us if we are doing so well?’


I’m a seventh-grade math teacher at Success Academy Harlem West, a public charter school. On April 30 and May 2, 3, the 272 students at my school, along with some 480,000 other New York City public school children, will sit for the state math exam. Last year, 89% of my seventh-graders and 83% of our sixth-graders passed the test, more than half scoring at the highest level.

But only 29% of all sixth-grade public-school students in the city passed the New York State Mathematics Test last year. Among sixth-grade black and Latino kids, only 15% and 17% passed, respectively. Among my sixth-graders, 97% are African-American or Latino, and three out of four of them are from low-income families.

Many teachers and parents—as well as New York City’s school chancellor and the mayor, have said there is too much emphasis on testing. But at Success Academy, we believe internal assessments and the results from state exams are essential feedback for how well we as teachers have done our job in the classroom. Students and teachers embrace academic rigor and take pride in having some of the top math scores in the city, in many cases outperforming the city’s gifted and talented programs.

A group of charter school students rally in support of charter schools outside the Capitol in Albany in March.Associated Press

I grew up in an affluent Connecticut suburb, attended an elite private school, and had many advantages the children in my school do not. Yet students are getting a far better education than I did. They are in school from 8:00 a.m. until 5:15 p.m. If some students do not fully understand a concept that day, they willingly stay for tutoring after school until they master it, sometimes working till 6 or 6:30 p.m.

Success Academy critics, however, have a hard time accepting our students’ academic achievements, even after a five-year track record ranking among the state’s top-performing schools. Critics, among them the teachers union, claim we “counsel out” special needs or low-performing students to keep scores high. Success Academy loses fewer of its students (10%, including special needs students) each year than our peer co-located public schools do (21%). Despite evidence to the contrary, this myth is frequently cited as fact in print and online. Last year, 1,538 Success Academy students took the state exams; 13% of them were special-needs kids. Of that group alone, 56% of them passed math. An average of 7% of New York City district special-needs students passed math.

The newest theory regarding our test scores is the most outlandish. Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change, a union-funded nonprofit, was quoted in Bloomberg News saying that Success Academy is “trying to find ways to increase test scores; that’s why they go into the wealthier neighborhoods.”

Really? Is it just me—or does anyone else hear the prejudicial undertone in that statement? Is it really impossible for Mr. Westin to believe that Success Academy’s poor black and Latino children can achieve at extraordinarily high levels? That with hard work and dedication, significant numbers of children in Harlem and the South Bronx and Bed-Stuy can be proficient at math and reading? That Success Academy might want all children—black and white, poor and middle class—to have access to great schools in various New York City neighborhoods?

Critics fail to understand how insulting and hurtful their remarks are to students and their parents. One of my students recently asked me, “Why are so many people mad at us if we are doing so well?” These children work incredibly hard, and they’re proud of their success. No one, especially without knowledge of their situation or home life or personal effort, has the right to undermine their remarkable achievements.

There’s an excellent reason why Success Academy scholars do extraordinarily well on the state exams: We believe they can. We believe all children can succeed, no matter their socioeconomic circumstances.

Our critics do not share that belief. To them, the achievement gap—with only 11% of African-American children and 12% of Latino students prepared for college—is a given, an unfortunate, but unavoidable fact of New York City’s public schools.

Our students have flipped that “fact” on its head. Now it’s time for educators to start believing that with the right changes, we can achieve these results for all New York City students.

Mr. Simmons is in his second year teaching mathematics at Success Academy Harlem West Middle School.

Read the original post here.–Officials Rally for Common Core


By Molly Callahan

HARTFORD — Education officials from across the state gathered in the legislative offices Wednesday morning to rally support for the state Common Core standards before a public hearing by the Education Committee about legislation aimed at imposing a moratorium on the initiative.

The rally was organized by “Connecticut’s Big Six,” the self-titled pact of six statewide education and community organizations: the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Association of Schools, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

Read More »

The Way I See It: Leadership Continuity


Dear Reader,

As you’ve probably heard, Connecticut has been struggling with the implementation phase of a statewide education reform movement. Critics have voiced concerns about Commissioner Pryor’s leadership, based upon the frustrations of educators facing the difficult implementation process. Change is really hard. But I keep wondering why we attack the leaders who put forward bold agendas for improvement in Connecticut. Can the system really get better if we keep putting districts and the state through these interruptions in leadership?

“This too shall pass” is a phrase I heard often during my six years as a district superintendent. I learned early into my tenure that most employees-teachers and administrators alike-had grown accustomed to the revolving door of leadership, and with it, the associated change in district initiatives. The strategy for dealing with change was very simple: if any particular initiative isn’t going well, simply hunker down and wait for the leadership to change. Why become invested in a reform strategy that is going to be abandoned when leadership shifts?

I’m noticing echoes of that approach throughout Connecticut’s education landscape these days. Although most Read More »