Hartford Courant-Call For Moratorium On Charters Stirs Passionate Debate

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A proposal for a two-year moratorium on public charter schools has ignited impassioned debate and tapped into long-standing disagreement over how well the schools perform and whether they drain needed resources from ordinary neighborhood schools.

“I ask that you consider our social, moral and American obligation to educate our youth and not further disable our true public school students…” said Dennis Bradley in legislative testimony in support of the moratorium. “It’s only logical … that we consider all positive and negative factors in the light of the best interest for our children.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 2.22.50 PMRep. Edwin Vargas, D-Hartford, who proposed the moratorium, said he supported the development of the state’s first charters back in the ’90s but has been disappointed with the performance of the schools.

Although the state says that 86 percent of charter elementary schools and 83 percent of charter high schools outperformed their host districts in 2013 on the state’s standardized tests, Vargas said that he wants more detail on how students are doing, on the funding for the schools and other operating policies.

“Over the years, we have to take their word, they are doing a great job, but there’s very little independent verification of any of it,” Vargas said.

Senate Bill 1096, raised by the education committee, calls for a halt on the approval of new charter schools after July 1, until the state education commissioner develops a comprehensive statewide charter school plan and conducts a review of existing charter schools. The plan would have to be submitted by Feb. 1, 2017, and would be reviewed by a legislative joint standing committee.

In addition, the bill would strengthen accountability for charters, and it calls for charter management organizations to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.Read More »

Hartford Courant: Bloomfield Schools Improve Test Scores, Gains Recognition

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By Steven Goode

BLOOMFIELD — Local students have made significant strides on state standardized tests over the past few years, allowing the school system to reduce the achievement gap between white and minority students.

The town’s mostly minority student population has struggled for many years, scoring near the bottom statewide on test scores, along with cities such as Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.

The improvement in scores has been noticed, marked by visits last year from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and former Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. The town’s gains have also been mentioned in several books by educational leadership expert Larry Ainsworth, who dedicated a chapter to the schools in a book related to rigorous curriculum design.

ConnCAN, an education reform advocacy group, has also noted Bloomfield’s improvements and this year sponsored a school assembly recognizing Carmen Arace Middle School and Carmen Arace Intermediate School as “Success Schools.”

Most recently the Connecticut Council for Education Reform highlighted how the school system got to where it is today in a special report titled “The Bloomfield Blueprint for Closing the Achievement Gap.”Read More »

CT Mirror: What you should know about this year’s standardized testing

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By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Thousands of students across Connecticut will begin taking controversial new standardized tests Tuesday that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards…

And Jeffrey Villar, a former superintendent in districts including Rocky Hill and Windsor, said districts are interpreting the law differently.

“It just depends on the district,” said Villar, now the executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a business-backed advocacy group.

For example, when he was the associate superintendent in Meriden, high school students were required to pass the CAPT exam to graduate.

This uncertainty in the law has left the door open to interpretation and criticism.

Read the rest of the story here.




WNPR: Connecticut Education Association Asks Legislators to Cut Back on Standardized Tests

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By Lydia Brown

The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is calling on legislators to cut back on standardized testing in schools.

The news comes just days before Connecticut students begin taking the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, known as SBAC.

The test is aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, the union’s executive director, Mark Waxenberg, said the CEA would like to see an alternative system of year-round progress testing, which monitors student growth at shorter intervals within a school year.

“The issue with the one-time tests being taken in the spring is that it doesn’t help the teacher understand where the needs of the children are,” Waxenberg said. “It’s a one-time shot.”

But Jeffrey Villar of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform disagrees. He said the SBAC’s use of computer technology instead represents the next generation of testing in Connecticut. Read More »

New Haven Register-Group says lack of Connecticut schools chief hurts education

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Officials with a New Haven-based nonprofit agency that is focused on improving Connecticut schools say the lack of a decision on who the next state education commissioner will be is hurting efforts to improve public policy in that area.

“I think there are a lot of people treading water, waiting to see what the next commissioner’s direction will be,” said Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. Villar made his comment during a wide-ranging discussion of education issues with member of the New Haven Register’s editorial board.Read More »

WNPR’s Where We Live-When It Comes to Standardized Testing, How Much Is Too Much?

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Later this month, Connecticut students will begin taking the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, which is designed to measure their progress in a variety of subject areas.

But some are not so thrilled about Connecticut’s testing requirements. The state’s largest teachers union recently asked lawmakers to cut back on standardized tests. And a number of parents say they plan to opt their kids out of SBAC testing this Spring.

This hour, our panel of experts weighs in on standardized testing and some of the controversy surrounding it. A little later, we also check in on the search for Connecticut’s next education commissioner.

Listen to the radio segment here.

Yale Daily News-Proposed State Education Budget Draws Criticism

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By Skyler Inman

Amid continued discussion of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s new budget proposal, including a series of public hearings by the Connecticut House Appropriations Committee, members of the education community have come out decidedly against the governor’s funding plan for the state’s public schools and universities.

On Tuesday, the Appropriations Committee heard the testimonies of over 100 representatives from charter, magnet and traditional public schools, as well as community programs and institutions of higher learning. Those who testified spoke out against budget cuts that will affect a wide array of state education services, including summer and after-school programs, some early childhood programs and the state’s public universities and community colleges. Even in areas where funds are not cut, education experts say many programs remain flat-funded, receiving an amount from the state that is not adjusted for annual increases in costs.

A summary of Malloy’s budget, compiled by Kathy Guay, a policy research consultant for the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, found that the governor’s plan eliminates $18.6 million in grants, with the largest cuts in extended day and summer school programs for Priority School Districts — a funding category for districts with the greatest need, including New Haven.

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Hartford Courant-Teachers Group Wants End to Major Standardized Testing

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By Gregory Hladky

HARTFORD – Connecticut’s largest teachers organization is calling for the elimination of major standardized testing, which the state had planned to use as part of teacher and school performance evaluation. The organization wants to replace it with more flexible “progress testing.”

Officials of the Connecticut Education Association said Monday they commissioned a survey that shows broad public support for placing more emphasis on classroom learning and less on time-consuming standardized tests.

The CEA, which has about 43,000 members, is urging the General Assembly to reform standardized testing. The group is launching a two-week, $250,000 TV ad campaign to encourage public support.

“Over-testing has overtaken our schools,” said CEA President Sheila Cohen, a teacher in Orange. “Over-testing is overwhelming our students.” Cohen said schools and teachers shouldn’t be evaluated simply on how students perform on “high stakes” standardized tests.

Cohen said her organization’s proposal is to phase out the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium standardized testing program that is intended to measure student, teacher and school performance.

“Many of the issues raised [by the CEA proposal] are based on steps the state is already taking,” said Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the State Board of Education. Donnelly said those include “reducing burdensome testing, developing holistic criteria to improve learning and develop teachers.”

“It’s important to remember these are federally mandated exams,” Donnelly added. “Without a singular, objective statewide assessment, parents, educators and policymakers would be unable to compare performance of students and specific underserved groups of students across the state.”

The amount of time Connecticut students spend on preparing for and taking standardized tests has come in for criticism from educators, parents and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. But the state’s new testing program also has its defenders.

Jeffrey Villar is executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a nonprofit organization backed by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and funded in part by Connecticut corporations, which has a goal of closing the achievement gap between students in wealthier suburban schools and kids in poor urban districts. Villar said the proposal to eliminate the current testing “fails to acknowledge the quality of the standardized testing.” He said the current test has been proven “to be accurate and reliable.”

Villar said the CEA’s proposal is clearly aimed at protecting teachers. “The CEA exists for the purpose of protecting its members,” Villar said.

Read More »

CTNewsJunkie-Teachers Union Wants to Get Rid of High-Stakes Test

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By Sarah Paduano

The state’s largest teachers union asked lawmakers Monday to reduce “high-stakes” standardized tests, such as the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium or SBAC test, and replace them with “progress tests.”

Read More »

CTNews-What Would the Governor’s budget mean to Commissioner’s Network Schools and More

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By Linda Lambeck

By now, the state was supposed to have a small army of 25 Commissioner’s Network Schools, all learning how to student achievement with extra funding and expert advise.Read More »

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