CT Mirror: Common Core can be a success for our children

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By Jeffrey Villar

Lively debate on issues of importance to Connecticut citizens is essential to a strong democracy. Unfortunately, the debate around Common Core has been rife with misinformation, and the majority of criticisms from detractors are not based on fact.  While I understand that the opposition has a point of view, I believe it is important to refute arguments that are simply not true, especially in defense of standards intended to make our children’s education more rigorous and competitive…

Take, for instance, an Op-Ed published in the CT Mirror on Oct. 6 titled “Common Core takes the joy out of teaching.” The Op-Ed argues that classroom teachers were “deliberately excluded” from the process of developing the standards. This is blatantly untrue.

In the development of the Common Core, teachers served on the Work Groups and Feedback Groups for the standards; then, feedback from teachers was collected by organizations such as the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and theNational Council of Teachers of English; then, state teams—including teachers—provided further feedback on the draft of the standards. Finally, teachers participated in two public comment periods, which had over 10,000 comments.

It just isn’t true that teachers weren’t participants in the process of developing the Common Core.

The Op-Ed also suggests that the assessments aligned with the Common Core will drastically increase the amount of time spent on testing, and the impact of testing. This is also untrue.

As a father, an educator, and a citizen of Connecticut, I am frustrated by the spreading of misinformation about Common Core. I hope you are too.

Read the full opinion here.



Republican American–Malloy: Success narrowing academic gap

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By Michael Puffer

HARTFORD — Last week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy touted success in narrowing the state’s academic achievement gap between white and minority students, citing student performance on the SAT college entry exams and Advanced Placement exams.

On average, black students improved their performance on all segments of the SAT tests — though they still lag behind both Hispanic and white students, according to figures from the state Department of Education.

Hispanics lost a little ground in all three subjects. Whites, on average, held steady in reading and lost a little ground in math and writing.

White students in general continue to score well above their minority peers on the SAT. In math, for example, the average white test taker scored 531 points, compared to 430 points for Hispanics and 403 for black students.

“While we still have a long way to go to ensure that all students are achieving at high levels, these results demonstrate that we are making significant progress in reducing the achievement gap for a significant percentage of our minority students,” Malloy said, according to a release issued by his office.

Malloy claimed that minorities are making “significant strides” passing the AP tests. Certainly, the numbers of AP tests taken by minority students has climbed significantly.

The number black students taking AP tests climbed to 1,640 last academic year, up 36 percent from the 2011-12 school year, according to analysis of state figures. A total of 2,437 Hispanic students took AP tests, up 27.4 percent. The number white students taking AP tests also saw a significant bump over the past three years, up 9 percent to 18,335.

SAT participation has also consistently climbed in each of the past three years. Last year, 3,532 black students, 3,955 Hispanic students and 18,335 white students took the test. The number of white students taking the SAT climbed last year, but is still down 474 students from 2012.

Two of Connecticut’s leading education reform groups sounded notes of caution about the numbers released by the College Board this week.

“Fewer than 43 percent of Connecticut kids who took the test were ready for college-level work, according to SAT results,” said Jennifer Alexander, head of the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, or ConnCAN. “That’s more than 50 percent of kids who graduated without the tools they need to succeed. We clearly need to do better, for all our kids, in every school.”

Connecticut Council for Education Reform Executive Director Jeffrey Villar said his group is pleased to see more minority students taking SAT and AP exams, and some improvement on the pervasive achievement gap. But Villar also warned against reading too much into a single year’s improvement.

“We won’t really know whether Connecticut’s achievement gap is narrowing until we can track a longitudinal trend,” Villar said.

Family income appears to play a big factor, according to figures in the College Board report on Connecticut’s performance on the SAT in 2014. Scores rose consistently with level of family income across all subjects.

In Connecticut, 2,039 members of the Class of 2014 who took SATs came from families earning between $20,000 to $40,000 yearly. This group achieved an average reading score of 467. The next tier up, families earning $40,000 to $60,000, had an average of 488 in reading. Students from families in the top income tier — greater than $200,000 — scored an average of 576.

Read it here.

CT News Junkie: Gubernatorial Candidates Focus On Education In Latest Ads

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By Christine Stuart

This week, two of the three gubernatorial candidates, have decided to focus on education policy in their TV ads and like the candidates the ads are vastly different. Read More »

The Branford Seven: Branford Schools Win Common Core Contest

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New Haven, Connecticut – Today, September 12, 2014, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) announced that Branford Public Schools has won CCER’s Common Core Communications Contest. The contest was designed to showcase the creative and effective methods that districts and schools have used to communicate with parents about the Common Core. Branford is one of only three winners.Read More »

Journal Inquirer: Vernon schools tops in promoting Common Core standards

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by David Huck

VERNON — The school system is $1,000 richer, thanks to an effective campaign to familiarize parents with new Common Core educational standards.

School officials, two area politicians, a parent, and representatives from the Connecticut Council for Education Reform — the organization that sponsored the contest — gathered Wednesday at the Northeast Elementary School library to mark the award from a contest.

With the win, the school system received a $1,000 check. The money will go toward purchasing three tripod video setups that would allow educators to digitally record a teacher or themselves with an iPad in an effort to improve teaching practices.

The occasion, however, was marked by officials defending and praising the Common Core standards — which have received a cool reception from some.

CCER distributed a flier that discusses the “top Common Core myths and facts.”

CCER Executive Director Jeffrey Villar said the standards are “an instrumental change that has the potential to make significant differences” in the way children learn by raising expectations.

CCER is a nonprofit based in New Haven that describes its aim as working toward narrowing the achievement gap.

Villar said the Vernon school system was selected for its innovative efforts to reach out to parents. Officials developed videos that were put on YouTube, distributed transcripts of meetings, held parent workshops, discussed the curriculum at board meetings, and sent home traditional fliers to households.

“Parents have to be partners at the table if we’re going to work to raise expectations for children,” Villar said.

Educators described the shift to the Common Core as moving from “teacher-directed instruction to student-driven learning.”

Ana Smith, a first-grade teacher with 25 years of experience, said that during her time she has seen many curriculums “come and go” but is a proponent of the new standards.

She said students are now allowed to better understand what is expected of them.

“This is important because if a student understands what and why they are learning about a certain subject, then there is a greater sense of purpose behind the learning,” Smith said.

In math, for example, there has been a shift from the memorization of math facts to “understanding what math is all about,” Smith said.

Students are encouraged to discuss with one another how they arrive at an answer and are therefore held more accountable for their learning, teachers say.

Another Northeast School teacher, Kristen Chepeleff, said she sees her students learning with more rigor and depth.

“I have witnessed first-graders grow into readers who are able to compare characters across books and connect to them through their own experiences and truly begin a journey towards a love of reading,” Chepeleff said.

Rosalind McFadden, whose daughter Savannah is a fifth-grader at the school, said she is excited and supportive for Common Core because of its “uniformity” and “consistency.”

Should she ever leave New England, McFadden said, she feels comfortable knowing her daughter would be able to easily adjust to the standards of a new school system.

With her children, McFadden said she encourages them to ask “why or know why” during their learning rather than just “doing something.”

She said the standards would prepare her daughter for a national and international job market.

Superintendent of Schools Mary P. Conway said the school system’s work of implementing Common Core is only in its infancy.

She said the standards are a new way of learning and teaching, so some teachers are struggling with the new instruction.

“We’re trying and will continue to try to share information with the community and parents so they can understand how they can partner in their child’s education with these high standards,” Conway said.

“New England doesn’t like to change,” Rep. Timothy J. Ackert, R-Coventry, said in remarking on resistance to the Common Core standards.Read More »

CTNewsJunkie: Pryor Won’t Stay for Second Term

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by Christine Stuart And Hugh McQuaid

If Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wins re-election, controversial Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor will not be part of the package, the administration announced Monday.

According to a press release, Pryor does not plan to serve for a second term and is “actively seeking new professional opportunities.”

“Commissioner Pryor has worked hard and well on behalf of Connecticut students,” Malloy said in a statement. “In the three years he’s led the department, we’ve taken tremendous steps forward to improve education, with a particular focus on the districts that have long needed the most help. We needed someone who could act as a change agent, and Stefan fulfilled that role admirably.”

Malloy appointed Pryor after taking office in 2011. His background as the co-founder of the New Haven public charter school, the Amistad Academy, made him a controversial choice with the state teacher unions.

Since then, Pryor has become a lightning rod for critics of Malloy’s education reform package, which some regard as hostile to public school teachers.Read More »

CTNewsJunkie: Common Core Opponents Voice Their Opposition

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by Jhansi Katechia

A handful of parents, some of whom were wearing red t-shirts that read “Stop the Common Core in CT,” expressed their opposition to implementation of the Common Core State Standards.Read More »

TheHour: Malloy announces the launch of Connecticut Core Initiative

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By Korey Wilson

HARTFORD — After several months of meetings, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Common Core Implementation Taskforce has concluded.

On Thursday, Malloy announced the launch of the Connecticut Core initiative, which will provide additional resources for public schools based on the findings of the task force.

As a result of the task force’s report, Malloy announced that $5 million will be spent on training and materials. Another $10 million in the upcoming fiscal budget has been provisioned for technology upgrades to assist in the roll out.

“I’m proud of the path that we have taken in Connecticut,” said Malloy during his speech at Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School in Hartford on Thursday.

“The recommendations of this task force will allow us to take quick and deliberate action to improve support for teachers and ensure that Connecticut students succeed.”

Malloy announced the allocation of $2 million to fund at least 1,000 professional training days for teachers; $1 million in mini-grants for library resources; and $2 million to upgrade curriculum for students with special needs as well as additional training for ESL and special education teachers.

The governor’s capital budget for FY ’15 authorizes an additional $10 million to prioritize school technology upgrades to support transition to the new standards.

The task force also recommended teacher and parent involvement as well as jargon-free language in the Common Core state standards.

The Common Core Implementation Taskforce consisted of 25 school administrators, teachers and parents that met weekly from March to June to identify challenges of the implementation and translate the Common Core State Standards into viable curricula.

Kendall Elementary School Principal Tony Ditrio served on the taskforce.

“We support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards as an important first step toward ensuring the global competitiveness of Connecticut’s children. We’re very pleased to see resources being dedicated to helping districts with the difficult work of implementation,” said Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

“The policies have been written. What matters now is making sure that districts are equipped to meet the new standards with success. Making substantial changes within school districts is hard work, so we’re glad to see the state providing districts with resources and support.”

In recent weeks, the governors of Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana signed bills repealing Common Core implementation.

Read the original story here.

CTNews.Com: CT educators’ group stand behind Common Core

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By Eileen FitzGerald

A group of six organizations representing superintendents, school board leaders, principals, and business and community leaders today launched a campaign in support of high academic standards in public education.

The campaign, hosted at http://facebook.com/ExpectMoreCT, is focused on ensuring that educators, parents, students, and community members have the tools to understand how high, clear, and consistent standards will affect public education in Connecticut.

The group is made up of: the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE), the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS), the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS), the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

 “High standards are essential to ensuring Connecticut public school students have the bright future they deserve,” said Robert Rader, executive director of the Connecticut Association of School Boards of Education.

The group said that “If we are to ensure a bright future for our children and our state, we need to know that our kids are getting the best education possible. Connecticut’s students will need to be ready to compete in an increasingly complex and global society. That’s why Connecticut’s Big Six supports high academic standards in Connecticut’s public schools through the Common Core State Standards.”

Read the original story here.

Hartford Courant: State Students Excel on ‘Nation’s Report Card’

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By Kathy Megan

HARTFORD — Connecticut’s high school seniors scored the highest in reading among 13 states and also narrowed the state’s achievement gap between black and white students, according to a test known as “the nation’s report card.”

“It’s the first time in recent history … that we’ve seen a statistically significant gap closure” between black and white students, said state Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. “We are enormously proud of that accomplishment.”

Pryor said that it was also the first time on a National Assessment of Educational Progress test, or NAEP, that Connecticut has ranked “No. 1 free and clear” in a subject area: On reading it outperformed the other 12 states, including Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

“Connecticut has not previously stood at the top as a solo number in its own category,” Pryor said, adding that the state’s 12th-graders’ reading score was, statistically speaking, significantly higher than those of all the other states.Read More »

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