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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.

Hartford Courant: Gov. Malloy Touts Smarter Balanced Scores

Jeff Villar, executive director for the Connecticut Council on Education Reform, wasn’t so sanguine about the test results.

“The governor is 100 percent correct, Connecticut is showing positive progress as measured by improved graduation rates and year over year Smarter Balanced Scores which is good news,” Villar said in an email. “However, no matter how you dice it, nearly fifty percent of our Alliance Districts failed to make the level of progress that their peers have despite the addition of significant state funding and intervention. We must expect all Alliance Districts to make high levels of progress. In school, a 50 is still an F.”

“Connecticut must do better for all of our children. We need a greater sense of urgency if we are going to close our persistent gaps in student achievement across the state.

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CT Sees Improvements Under Common Core

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

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, August 18, 2016, the Connecticut State Department of Education released preliminary results for the 2016 Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), which has now been administered twice in Connecticut. The results show improvements in both English Language Arts and Math across the state—with the percentage of students who meet expectations in both subjects improving by over three percentage points. In response, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) made the following statement:

“It is very encouraging to learn that the second administration of the SBAC has revealed improved academic outcomes for students in both English and Math. Based on these measurable results, we—as a state—must continue our commitment to implementing rigorous standards for both teachers and students. If we want to improve upon these positive trends, Connecticut public school districts must remain focused on high-quality learning experiences for their students and meaningful professional development opportunities for their educators.

“Although today’s results are generally positive, our analysis still suggests that we have much work to do in narrowing gaps in achievement: even though the state saw improvement across the board, the pace of improvement has been faster for White students than students of color. This should remind us all of the need to identify and scale practices that work for our highest-need student groups.

“Notably, almost half of the state’s lowest-performing districts have improved at even faster rates than the state. These “Alliance Districts” are part of a program that has provided increased state-level oversight and significant additional funding. While today’s results demonstrate the promise of that effort, we now need to unpack which actions are making a difference within these high-need districts. CCER is currently undertaking a research study of the Alliance District program since its inception in 2012. Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures, we hope to identify impactful initiatives and make recommendations for further refining the state’s intervention model.

“Overall, we are certainly heartened by these preliminary data. Now, we must demand year-over-year improvement if we are to close Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap. Our students deserve nothing less.”

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Hartford Courant: Student Scores Improve On Smarter Balanced Test

Connecticut students who took the state’s Smarter Balanced test in the spring showed significant improvement over last year, though less than half of the state’s students are meeting or exceeding the achievement standard on the math section of the exam.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said the improvement in test scores is “encouraging,” but said “the pace of improvement has been faster for white students than students of color. This should remind us all of the need to identify … practices that work for our highest-need student groups.”

Read the full story here.

NewsTimes: After court battle, school funding debate will fall to Connecticut legislators

DANBURY — A legal fight that has been fought for years over the state’s formula for funding public schools is finally in the hands of a judge.

A coalition of Connecticut cities has long argued state aid should be redistributed more heavily from wealthy towns to poorer communities and urban areas.

At the same time, the cost of inaction is too high, Villar said.

It took us a decade to get to this point, and our kids can’t wait another decade for relief,” he said. “Every kid gets one shot at a school year, and then it’s gone.”

Read the full story here.

Middletown Press: Connecticut SAT results called ‘good start’ — and ‘sobering’

In a statement bemoaning the achievement gap, Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said “these results aren’t good enough.”

“Connecticut can do so much better for its students. The SAT results highlight two major problems in our state: first, that we have made little improvement addressing our massive gaps in achievement — whether you’re comparing the performance of low-income students or students of color to their peers. Second, we have failed to make the systemic changes that are necessary to produce real, measurable improvement,” Villar said.

According to a release announcing the data, Commissioner Dianna Wentzel’s Commissioner’s Council on Mathematics, formed about a year ago in response to the state’s SBAC math results, is expected to release its final report and findings in fall.

Read the full story here.

New Haven Register: Connecticut SAT results called ‘good start’ — and ‘sobering’

In a statement bemoaning the achievement gap, Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said “these results aren’t good enough.”

“Connecticut can do so much better for its students. The SAT results highlight two major problems in our state: first, that we have made little improvement addressing our massive gaps in achievement — whether you’re comparing the performance of low-income students or students of color to their peers. Second, we have failed to make the systemic changes that are necessary to produce real, measurable improvement,” Villar said.

According to a release announcing the data, Commissioner Dianna Wentzel’s Commissioner’s Council on Mathematics, formed about a year ago in response to the state’s SBAC math results, is expected to release its final report and findings in fall.

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CT SAT Results Show Persistent Achievement Gaps

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

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, August 3, 2016, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) released the results of the first administration of Connecticut SAT School Day, in which all 11th grade public school students took the newly redesigned SAT. This was part of a statewide effort to eliminate testing burden and increase equity by replacing the statewide assessment with the college entrance exam. In response to the release of the results, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), made the following statement:

“Simply put, these results aren’t good enough. But they are not surprising either. Connecticut can do so much better for its students. The SAT results highlight two major problems in our state: first, that we have made little improvement addressing our massive gaps in achievement—whether you’re comparing the performance of low-income students or students of color to their peers. Second, we have failed to make the systemic changes that are necessary to produce real, measurable improvement.

“For years now, Connecticut has had one of the worst achievement gaps in the country, as demonstrated by the National Assessment for Educational Progress. These SAT results are yet another dataset in a long stream of tests that continue to identify a serious problem with public education in our state. In fact, last year’s 2015 Smarter Balanced (SBAC) results showed similar trends across the state: wide gaps in achievement across economic and racial lines. It seems like, no matter which data you choose, these gaps jump out as a problem. Make no mistake: the failure to close these gaps is not reflective of these students’ abilities; rather, it is a systemic failure.

“The SAT results released today also indicate a worrisome trend about Connecticut’s math instruction, a trend that was mirrored by last year’s SBAC results. The development of math skills requires a strong foundation, rigorous instruction, and aligned curricula year-over-year. Right now, with 60% of our students not meeting expectations in math, it’s clear that something is seriously wrong with our system. It is not enough just to adopt standards. We must invest in the development and consistent implementation of a high-quality curriculum. We must provide teachers with the training and tools necessary to teach these skills. We must ensure that students have the time and support necessary to successfully master the curriculum. And, finally, we must prepare school leaders who can set the stage for these things to happen.

“When Connecticut students graduate high school, they should already be on a path to success, and these data show that they aren’t. As a state, we have to react to data points like these by seeking solutions. Our state has a lot of work to do.”

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CT’s Stubborn Achievement Gap: Comparing Gaps Over Time, Across America

We’ve taken a look at the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) (the only test of academic achievement that is administered to all states across America) over time. When you look at the map, we have used eligibility for the national school lunch program as a proxy for coming from a low-income background, and then we’ve identified gaps in 4th and 8th grade Reading and Math. Since 2003, while other states have made progress and seen change, Connecticut’s achievement gap has remained wide and intransigent–among the worst in America.

Poverty Achievement Gaps Over Time

Mathematics and Low Income

Has the Gap in 4th Grade Math Changed Over the Years?

This map displays gaps in Math performance between low-income students and their peers at the 4th grade level. (NAEP State Comparisons) You can compare these gaps across states over time. The darker the color, the larger the gap. While the size of the gap varies a little bit from year-to-year in Connecticut, the gap consistently remains one of the worst in the country.

Mathematics and Low Income

Has the Gap in 8th Grade Math Changed Over the Years

This map displays gaps in Math performance between low-income students and their peers at the 8th grade level. (NAEP State Comparisons) You can compare these gaps across states over time. The darker the color, the larger the gap. While the size of the gap varies a little bit from year-to-year in Connecticut, the gap consistently remains one of the worst in the country.

Reading and Low Income

Has the Gap in 4th Grade Reading Changed Over the Years?

This map displays gaps in Reading performance between low-income students and their peers at the 4th grade level. (NAEP State Comparisons) You can compare these gaps across states over time. The darker the color, the larger the gap. While Connecticut has made some gains in reducing the size of the gap, it remains among the worst in the country.

Reading and Low Income

Has the Gap in 8th Grade Reading Changed Over the Years?

This map displays gaps in reading performance between low-income students and their peers at the 8th grade level. (NAEP State Comparisons) You can compare these gaps across states over time. The darker the color, the larger the gap. While Connecticut has made some gains in reducing the size of the gap, it remains among the worst in the country.