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Hartford Courant (Editorial): Secret Superintendent Evaluations Unacceptable

Jeffrey A. Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, called for a balance between privacy and the public’s interest, saying, “There’s a certain level of privacy you give up when you sign on as a superintendent,” he said.

He’s right.

Legislators must align the evaluation process with the spirit of open government.

Read the full piece here.

Hartford Courant: Superintendent Evals Public Under State Law, But It Doesn’t Always Work Out That Way

Jeffrey A. Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said he is in the process of comparing Connecticut’s laws regarding superintendency to those in other states, to possibly develop a policy recommendation for legislators.

Villar said there needs to be a balance between maintaining employee privacy and acting in the public’s interest.

“A town does have a right to know, is the superintendent hitting the targets as established by the board [and] how does the board feel about the superintendent’s performance … That’s appropriate for a public official. There’s a certain level of privacy you give up when you sign on as a superintendent,” he said.

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.

Inkling News: Connecticut Calls for Reevaluation of State Education System and Funding

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, points out that revamping Connecticut’s school system stretches far beyond rationalizing the distribution of funding—it also requires a revamping of the attitudes in and towards lower income schools.

“All [students are] innately capable- but we send messages to some children saying, ‘We don’t expect much from you,’ then we say to other children, ‘You could be the next supreme court justice,’” Villar says.

Read the full story here.

New Haven Register (opinion): New Haven superintendent’s departure underscores need to stabilize local control

Connecticut will barrel into a period in which Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven will all be searching for new district leaders — and competing for top candidates. The timing could not be more perfect for the recent superior court decision in CCJEF v. Rell, which called attention to the irrationality of our education system — including Connecticut’s deference to local control. Indeed, as we’re seeing in all three large districts, local control can often create instability that is unfair to kids.

New Haven will undergo a difficult period of transition that leaves administrators and teachers guessing which initiatives most deserve their attention. They will probably have to acclimate to an interim leader before they get a steadier presence in the Superintendent’s office. And even then, how long will this next leader last? Throughout the leadership vacuum, teachers will do what they simply must: close their classroom doors and struggle to meet their students’ needs on their own.

Bridgeport is soon to face a similar vacuum, from the sounds of it, resulting from a total deterioration of the local board.

Isn’t there a better way?

Read the full story here.


CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
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.”


 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–Better Outcomes Require More Than Funding

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
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.

2016: Can We Keep the Focus on Kids?

For the past several years, CCER has released an annual report on the state’s progress in passing and implementing our long-term plan to raise academic outcomes for all students, regardless of their race or socio-economic status. Based upon the recommendations we initially put forth in 2011, we developed a rubric so that we can both qualitatively and quantitatively track this progress.

At the end of 2015, we moved to an online format, so that you can track Connecticut’s progress in real time. So far, the state has fully implemented over 37% of our recommendations. We’ve accomplished so much, but there’s still a lot left to do.

We know that a lot of the upcoming legislative session is going to be focused on the budget deficit. But we also know that investing in Connecticut’s students is the best way our state can improve its economic prospects.

Read on to check out what we’ve accomplished to date, and how our 2016 policy priorities will keep the focus on kids!Read More »

Unified School Board Contributes to Bloomfield Success

Don-Harris-headshot-preferredAs chairman of the board for Bloomfield Public Schools, which our data indicates is the most improved school district in Connecticut over the past four years; I’m often asked what contributed to our academic resurgence.

For example, our high school graduation rate increased 16 percentage points from 2011 – 74% to 90% now. Our middle school registered four consecutive years of academic growth and was recently recognized by the education reform group ConnCAN as a “Success Story” school. Third grade Reading, Writing and Math scores in 2013 were above the state average. The Milken Foundation recently recognized Metacomet Elementary School principal Desi Nesmith with its prestigious award for education leadership.

In March, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform published an extensive online profile – located at – about Bloomfield’s successful strategies to reduce the academic achievement gap. Connecticut historically has held the widest achievement gap in the country.

There have been two key contributors to our resurgence. First, is the leadership of Superintendent Dr. James Thompson Jr. When hired in 2011, he established a vision rooted in the strategic use of data; rigor; a positive school climate; and family/community engagement. Those priorities set a strong foundation for academic achievement. Staff and stakeholders endorsed and executed the vision. The other factor that spurred our academic growth is the harmonious and collaborative relationship between the superintendent and the school board. We understand our respective roles. I can’t emphasize enough how much a unified school board contributes to the academic success of a school system, particularly one that had been under-performing.Read More »

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