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Center for Data Innovation-Dear Parents: Your Concerns About Student Privacy Are Being Exploited

Parents understandably value the privacy of their children and thus are sensitive to programs that collect and analyze student data. On the other hand, nonprofits, education researchers, and education technology firms rely on data collected inside and outside the classroom to develop and improve educational products and services, enable teachers to personalize lessons, help school administrators make more informed decisions, and increase student achievement. All too often, many education stakeholders falsely portray these two objectives as mutually exclusive and insinuate that if the education system is going to explore data-driven innovation, it will sacrifice student privacy.

In 2015, the Connecticut Education Association (CEA)—the state’s largest teachers’ union— accused the Hamden school district of irresponsibly sharing student data with the Connected Council for Education Reform (CCER), a nonprofit working to reduce achievement gaps between schools in wealthy and poor districts. CCER’s work, which it offered to the school district at no cost despite being valued at $100,000, focused on analyzing budgeting data to identify inefficient administrative practices so the school district could devote a greater share of its resources to educating its students. The data CCER was legally provided with by the school district was both anonymous and subject to a confidentiality agreement, preventing CCER from sharing this information. Despite this, CEA falsely insisted that CCER was covertly accessing personally identifiable data without parental consent and insinuated that CCER would sell this data. While student privacy was never in jeopardy here, CEA levied these accusations to garner support for state legislation that would greatly restrict the ability of well-meaning groups like CCER to access and analyze education data and in theory, prevent third parties from uncovering inefficient allocation of resources that benefited CEA members.

Read the full story here.

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.

CT Viewpoints: Mastery exam task force report due soon — its findings ‘predetermined’

By John Bestor

The Mastery Examination Task Force was comprised of four members from the State Department of Education including the Commissioner herself as chair, two representatives from the State Board of Education, two from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, two from the CT Association of Public School Superintendents, two from the CT Association of Schools (which oversees The Principal’s Center), three from the CT Parent Teacher Association, and two chosen at-large by the Commissioner: the Executive Director of the CT Council for Education Reform and a Southern Connecticut State University professor with a math/technology background. Another appointed education leader who joined the task force after it had started represented the State Board of Regents for Higher Education. And, four representatives from the two professional teacher organizations were included on the task force.

By my calculation, task force members predisposed to maintaining (with some minor tweaks) the current statewide student assessment protocol outnumbered the teacher representatives, 18 to four.

Read the full piece here.

Yankee Institute: Connecticut on the naughty list: our schools aren’t nice to our kids

Connecticut’s naughty education policies betray one of its biggest challenges: the achievement gap between groups of students based on income and background. The Connecticut Council for Education Reform examined Department of Education data on 8th grade math performance to determine that the state has the largest achievement gap in America for low-income students. Achievement levels of white and African-American students show similar disparity.

Read the full piece here.

Hartford Courant: Education Leaders In Connecticut Lack Enthusiasm For Trump’s Cabinet Choice

By selecting her, he is signaling that the U.S. Department of Education is going to chart a new course and it’s likely one that’s going to be dominated by school choice,” Villar said. “Her history is one of supporting vouchers vehemently and vouchers … are unlikely to have the impact on Connecticut schools that we really need to see.

Read the full piece here.

New Haven Register Editorial: Regionalization of school districts must be considered as school enrollment declines

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Connecticut also is expected to have the nation’s third-fastest decline in students enrolled in high school over the next 10 years — an estimated 17,400 fewer students with an estimated 5,400 fewer graduating each year.

So, solutions are needed — but is more regionalization the answer?

It appears to be a sound way to go, but as the towns of Norfolk and Colebrook in Litchfield County recently found out, not everyone is onboard with regionalization or consolidation. Voters split on approving a regional pre-K through sixth-grade school: Norfolk, with 102 students, supported the idea but Colebrook, with 91 students, rejected it.

According to the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, while the number of students may decline, the administrative costs associated with running the schools continues to increase — something state Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney thinks must be considered.

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CCJEF Appeal Is No Excuse for Delay

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

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, September 15, 2016, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepson announced plans to appeal Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s decision in the decade-long trial, CCJEF v. Rell. Although the trail was about the adequacy of Connecticut’s funding of public school education, Judge Moukawsher’s decision was noteworthy because it criticized the irrationality of Connecticut’s education system as a whole–requiring the state to develop a plan that addresses its funding model, graduation standards, teacher evaluation and compensation, and special education. In response to the Attorney General’s decision to appeal, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), made the following statement:

“We believe that Judge Moukawsher’s most important observation is that the state has a non-delegable duty to provide its students with access to an adequate education. He said that the state cannot delegate its duty to local authorities and then wipe its hands of its responsibility. If local authorities aren’t getting the job done, it’s the state’s duty to intervene. We hope that takeaway stands up to scrutiny on appeal—and also motivates the legislature to push for change with urgency.

“As the Attorney General himself has observed, even though the case is being appealed, our General Assembly does not need to wait to address the very real problems that plague Connecticut’s education system. Judge Moukawsher has drawn attention to some irrational and critical issues with public education in our state. It’s high time we solve them.

“It is my sincere hope that our legislators won’t use this appeal simply as an excuse for further delay. Connecticut can’t afford to wait another ten years before it builds a system that meets the needs of its students or the promise of its constitution.”

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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

 

CT Viewpoints (opinion): Judge correctly identified need for systemic public education overhaul.

The ink isn’t yet dry on Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling in CCJEFv. Rell — originally brought in 2005 — and Connecticut must already prepare to defend its educational practices in another court –this time federal.

These decades of trials, for all of their legal distinctions, ultimately come down to the same idea: Although Connecticut has a constitutional obligation to educate its students, it’s doing a bad job for many of them.

asked only to address the constitutionality of our spending– Moukawsher has found himself requiring the state to produce a plan that also addresses standards, human resources, special education, and the relationship between state and local government.

surely undertaking that challenge is better than spending precious state funds on defending future lawsuits, or facing the economic and moral implications of producing further generations of graduates who are unprepared to succeed in life.

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Better Outcomes Require More Than Funding

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

 

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, September 7th, Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled on an almost-11-year-old case about the constitutionality of Connecticut’s education finance system: Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell. Judge Moukawsher ruled that Connecticut’s process for allocating education funding is irrational and unconstitutional. In response to the ruling, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), made the following statement:

“CCER agrees with Judge Moukawsher’s finding that Connecticut’s approach to funding public education is irrational. We have repeatedly pointed to the unclear and unjust manner of distributing education dollars through the state’s Education Cost Sharing formula. And as unjust as that formula is, Connecticut has not even been using it of late—relying instead on an ad hoc and highly politicized distribution of funds to districts. When gaps in achievement loom as large as they do in Connecticut, it’s patently unfair to underfund these school districts.

“But it is especially noteworthy that Judge Moukawsher did not merely call for additional spending, rather choosing to emphasize the various ways in which our system needs to be re-worked. I am struck by the similarities between Judge Moukawsher’s apparent outlook and CCER’s policy agenda. An offshoot of a gubernatorial commission convened to find solutions to Connecticut’s unenviable achievement gap, CCER has consistently advocated for holistic reform of the public education system, including the need to make our funding structures more transparent and equitable—but not stopping there.Read More »

The Christian Science Monitor–Connecticut students: unequal – and now unconstitutional

Since 2012, the year that Quesnel began as superintendent, East Hartford has received millions of dollars in extra funding for support services and remedial classes under two state programs aimed at turning around struggling schools.

There are encouraging signs of progress, says Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Educational Reform, a nonprofit that has worked with East Hartford to implement one of the state programs. But he warns that the concentration of poverty in urban districts creates its own challenges that are beyond the control of school principals, such as violent neighborhoods and transient households.

‘The capacity of teachers to meet the needs of kids in their class becomes very taxed when you have a large group of students coming with great stresses in their life experience,’ says Mr. Villar, who spent more than two decades as a teacher and administrator in Connecticut

Read the full story here.

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