The Christian Science Monitor–Connecticut students: unequal – and now unconstitutional

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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

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Hartford Courant: Gov. Malloy Touts Smarter Balanced Scores

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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.

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Hartford Courant: Student Scores Improve On Smarter Balanced Test

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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.”

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

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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.”

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

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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.

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

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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.

CT Mirror: Does Connecticut need a think tank?

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Connecticut is not bereft of policy research capacity; indeed there is a good amount of study going on here. It’s being done by:

Groups focusing on particular policy areas such as the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering,Connecticut Voices for Children, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, the Partnership for Strong Communities, the Connecticut Association for Human Services, the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, and several others.

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CT Viewpoints: SBAC provides invaluable information about students — and their teachers

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I had the privilege to work with talented educators who devoted their lives to reaching every child in their classrooms, literally spending day and night preparing lessons, correcting work or contemplating how to reach a struggling student.  These teachers took their role in their students’ lives very seriously, seeking feedback on ways to improve their craft.  For these teachers, evaluation was not a threat. They were doing their jobs proudly and effectively.  They had nothing to fear, but only information to gain that would help them improve.

In every profession, people are accountable for the work that they do. Is a surgeon a good surgeon because she comes to work each day and is friendly? Or do we look at the number of successful operations and her cure rate?   If a teacher’s job is to teach children, shouldn’t that teacher be accountable for whether or not the children learned that information?

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CT Viewpoints: State Board of Education demands action on teacher evaluation

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I applaud the SBE for pushing back on PEAC’s recommendation and drawing a real line in the sand.

Connecticut’s teacher evaluation model, which has never been fully implemented to date, calls for using measures of student growth as one of many components of a teacher’s evaluation. However, during the past two years, the use of state data on student learning has been “de-coupled” or excluded from evaluations.

It is highly unfortunate that Connecticut’s poor students do not have the resources to hire their own lobbyists to rebut the CEA’s proposals. Instead, these students are expected just to accept Connecticut’s education system as is —a system in which 44 percent of Connecticut graduates find themselves in need of remediation when they go to college. That seems like a raw deal to me.

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New Haven Register: ‘Devil is always in the details’ for school improvement, says CCER director

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Villar said CCER’s primary focus is closing the achievement gap between student subgroups in Connecticut.

“Connecticut continues to have the most consistent and largest achievement gap in the country,” he said. “We’re actually doing a very poor job, particularly of educating poor and minority students compared to other states.”

Villar said the organization works with school districts, including New Haven, to examine how they finance education and whether they are doing so equitably. How districts spend their money, however, should depend on their demographics.

“My thing always is: Is it purposeful spending?” Villar said. “New Haven spends more on transportation, because there’s a lot of school choice.”

Read the full story here.

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