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.

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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.”

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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 »

Hartford Courant-Malloy Proposes Significant Cuts for Higher Education, Flat Funding for Local School Districts

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By Kathy Megan

He’s often said that education is a top priority, but now some advocates are saying that the swipes Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made at higher education funding and the continued flat funding for schools districts could be a serious setback.

University of Connecticut officials said that Malloy’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016 would leave them $40 million short of what they need to operate in the budget year that starts July 1. Similarly, the Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system would be $38 million short of its target.

Higher education administrators said that such reductions would require significant cuts and could lead to greater increases in tuition than planned.

“While we don’t yet know its full impact, this level of spending reduction will almost certainly require a significant increase in student tuition and changes to how [Connecticut State Colleges & Universities] conducts its operations,” said Gregory Gray, president of the CSCU system.

That said, Gray emphasized that he would try to keep the cuts “as far away from the students and the instructional process as possible.” But he added, “There’s a line there. We are getting very close to that line where we simply cannot operate in the way that we need to operate.”

A statement from University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst said that “managing a reduction of that size will necessitate deep and significant cuts throughout the university.”

On the budget proposal for primary and secondary school education, legislators say they were pleased that Malloy did not cut funding in the state’s education cost-sharing system, but they raised questions about the additional funding targeted for charter and magnet schools.

According to Malloy’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year, $36 million more would be allotted for 1,800 more seats in magnet schools and an additional $12 million would go for 1,250 new charter school seats. In addition, $7.9 million in fiscal year 2017 would go for an additional 612 charter seats.

The budget also includes a $4.7 million reduction in funding for low-performing schools targeted for additional resources through the Commissioner’s Network.

‘Doesn’t Quite Add Up’

Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, and co-chairman of the legislature’s education committee, said he was concerned that the budget has “significant increases for magnet schools and charters, but at the same time talks about level funding [in Education Cost Sharing] and reducing dollars for the Commissioner’s Network, which includes the state’s neediest schools. All of that doesn’t quite add up to me.”

Fleischmann said he would have to examine the budget in greater detail. “To the extent that we find additional dollars for education, it seems to me those dollars should be going to ECS first and foremost.”

Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, the co-chairwoman of the education committee, said: “It’s terrific that there aren’t cuts [in ECS funding], but on the other hand, to see the numbers increase so dramatically for non-traditional schools, but leave the schools where the majority of our kids are without additional funding is of concern to me.”

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said he was concerned that progress made by the state’s low-performing 30 Alliance Districts — also targeted for extra resources under the Malloy administration — would slide backward without an increase to reflect the districts’ increase in costs.

“The position I would take is that flat funding for the Alliance Districts represents between 2 [percent] and 3 percent in cuts because of the increase in costs they experience year over year,” Villar said.

He said the budget also includes a $6.7 million cut to struggling school districts to cover the cost of extended day programs and summer school to help raise achievement.

Villar said that Malloy’s budget does include bright spots, such as his call for full-day kindergarten by the fall of 2017. However, he said, “[W]e are disappointed that the [proposed budget] does not seem to make education a top priority in 2015.”Read More »

NBC Troubleshooters-Parents Unable to Opt Kids Out of State Testing

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By Christiane Cordero

 

Access the original story here.

Yale Daily News-ConnCAN urges Malloy to improve education

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By Michelle Liu

While Gov. Dannel Malloy and his staff have touted his administration’s efforts to improve education across the state, one advocacy group has urged the governor to take a more proactive role.

Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now (ConnCAN), a pro-charter school nonprofit education group, held a press conference in Hartford hours before Malloy’s State of the State address last Wednesday, pressuring the governor to focus on what they believe is an “education crisis” in the state. ConnCAN supporters criticized the administration in the press conference for trapping 40,000 students in 63 failing schools across the state.

At the press conference, ConnCAN CEO Jennifer Alexander pushed for Malloy, the General Assembly and the state Board of Education to expand school options, such as charter schools, and to make education funding more equitable for children regardless of the school they attend.

“We’ve built better schools, raised test scores, made college more affordable and put Connecticut on a path toward universal pre-kindergarten,” Malloy said in his address a few hours later.

In response to the address, Alexander said in a press release that, although she believes significant progress had been made, the governor and state legislature need to work faster to create excellent schools in the state.

On Jan. 9, Big Six — a coalition of six Connecticut education organizations, including ConnCAN, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association — released a set of expectations for elected officials during this year’s legislative session. These policy goals include a reduction of regulations in order to encourage innovation in school districts, transparent funding and clear frameworks for accountability on school and district improvement.Read More »

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