FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CCER Releases Findings of Alliance District Study

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of CCER, along with State Representative Susan Johnson, released the findings of a study conducted by the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. The study, commissioned by CCER, looks at the impact of the Alliance District program and provides insights into how effective planning and monitoring of performance data can lead to improved results.

The study, Focus: How Long-term Planning Processes Can Improve State-Led Turnaround in Connecticut, begins to examine the Alliance District program by analyzing the effectiveness of the annual district improvement plans as tools for change, as well as the link between these plans and some of the positive outcomes that districts within the program have seen over time. Conducted by a research team at the Neag School of Education of the University of Connecticut, this study produces findings with important implications for how best to strengthen the Alliance District program and leverage state improvement dollars.

“The study is important because it highlights the power and potential of improvement planning as a tool for raising outcomes for students in our highest-need districts.” said Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of CCER. “Specifically, investing in the skills and talents of employees, aligning all elements of the system towards focused outcomes, and careful implementation of research-based practices appear to be necessary components to any effective plan.”

Villar added, “The study also suggests that disruptions in leadership—both at the state-level and in our districts—can impact effective implementation and detract from improvement efforts. To me, though, it appears from the research that the state’s focus on district planning can really be a high-leverage strategy for turning around districts. With consistency in leadership and plan requirements, we can anticipate continued growth among the Alliance Districts.”

Speaking about the improvement that the Windham Public Schools has seen on the metrics that CCER explored, Representative Susan Johnson said, “I am very proud of Windham’s improvement over the past several years. I believe that the district’s improvement plan—emphasizing focus, extended classroom time, capacity-building, and data-monitoring practices—has played a big role in the progress we are making together as a community. The study by the Neag School of Education emphasizes what we have always believed: that long-term commitment to a well-thought out plan will help raise outcomes for our students. In addition, it’s important for the state to continue providing our highest-need districts with the funding they need to improve.”

Dr. Jennie Weiner, the study’s lead research from the Neag School of Education at UConn, said, “This research is important for two key reasons. First, as key documents in publicly articulating districts’ improvement agendas, the Alliance District Plans give us initial insights into how districts are thinking about and likely directing resources towards improvement. Second, these plans take time and resources for district actors to create, negotiate, and monitor. They also serve as the gateway to millions of taxpayer dollars to increase the ability of chronically under-performing and often under-resourced schools to better serve Connecticut’s students. Therefore, any information we might glean about how to make these plans and the planning process more effective is worthwhile and important.”

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 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 www.ctedreform.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Governor Proposes Changes to School Funding

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, February 8, 2017, Governor Malloy’s budget address addressed, among other issues, changes to the state’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. State education dollars are supposed to be distributed based on the ECS formula, which has been revised numerous times and is currently not being followed at all. In response to the Governor’s address, Jeffrey Villar—Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)—made the following statement:

“These proposed changes to ECS are a first step towards solving an important problem in our state. CCER is part of a coalition of education stakeholders that has spent over two years analyzing ECS and contemplating solutions to make it more fair, equitable, and predictable. In line with that coalition’s design principles for improvement, CCER would like to see a new ECS formula based on the following six principles: (1) equitably funding all schools, based on student need; (2) incentivizing innovation and efficiency in support of mastery-based learning; (3) coherence in terms of applicability to all school types; (4) transparency and predictability; (5) fairness in determination of the amount of aid for each community—based on a combination of factors, including multiple measures of property and income conditions, and concentration of low-income students; and (6) transparency of district expenditures, in furtherance of accountability.

“The Governor’s budget indicated a willingness to address many of these principles through measures such as basing the new formula on current enrollment numbers and replacing the current measure for poverty—eligibility for free and reduced priced lunch—for a more precise measure, HUSKY A data.

“In his address, the Governor observed that, ‘education is economic development.’ But if we are truly interested in improving public education so that we can establish a pipeline of skilled and prepared workers in our state, we need to do more than tweak the funding formula. We can’t lose sight of the myriad other issues, raised by the judge in CCJEF v. Rell, that must be resolved if Connecticut students are going to get the education they deserve. Among these issues is that we need to find a more meaningful way of intervening in persistently low-performing districts, ensure that all students are reading at grade-level by third grade, and ensure that when students graduate from high school, they are graduating prepared for success in colleges and careers.

“I feel confident and hopeful that the legislature will engage in meaningful discussions about these and other ideas impacting Connecticut students this legislative session.”

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 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 www.ctedreform.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Governor Takes First Step on Education Funding, But More is Needed

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, February 6, 2017, Governor Malloy issued a press release indicating his proposed changes to the state’s Education Cost Sharing (ECS) formula. The ECS formula, which is supposed to be used to determine the distribution of state education dollars to local districts, has been revised numerous times and is currently not being followed at all. In a recent court decision that attracted national attention, CCJEF v. Rell, a judge determined that Connecticut’s current funding formula is unconstitutional because it allocates resources irrationally. Governor Malloy observed in his statement that the state must not wait for further court orders before working to correct this problem. In response to the Governor’s press release, Jeffrey Villar—Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)—made the following statement:

 

“CCER is optimistic about these proposed changes to ECS. We are part of a coalition of education stakeholders that has spent over two years analyzing ECS and contemplating solutions to make it more fair, equitable, and predictable. In line with that coalition’s design principles for improvement, CCER believes that a new ECS formula must address the following six principles: (1) equitably funding all schools, based on student need; (2) incentivizing innovation and efficiency in support of mastery-based learning; (3) coherence in terms of applicability to all school types; (4) transparency and predictability; (5) fairness in determination of the amount of aid for each community—based on a combination of factors, including multiple measures of property and income conditions, and concentration of low-income students; and (6) transparency of district expenditures, in furtherance of accountability.

“By using HUSKY A data to more accurately measure poverty, and by basing the formula on current enrollment—the Governor’s proposal sounds as though it would begin to address many of these principles.

“However, CCER would also advocate for the points outlined in the coalition’s design principles, such as the consideration of additional funding weights for communities that have high densities of poverty. In addition, the state needs to do more to ensure that all schools, including schools of choice, receive the same levels of funding so that they can meet their students’ needs.

“We look forward to further details of the Governor’s proposal, including the potential impact of de-coupling special education funding, in the coming weeks.”

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 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 www.ctedreform.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CCJEF Appeal Is No Excuse for Delay

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
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.”

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 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 www.ctedreform.org

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Better Outcomes Require More Than Funding

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
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 »

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CT Sees Improvements Under Common Core

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, August 18, 2016, the Connecticut State Department of Education released preliminary results for the 2016 Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), which has now been administered twice in Connecticut. The results show improvements in both English Language Arts and Math across the state—with the percentage of students who meet expectations in both subjects improving by over three percentage points. In response, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) made the following statement:

“It is very encouraging to learn that the second administration of the SBAC has revealed improved academic outcomes for students in both English and Math. Based on these measurable results, we—as a state—must continue our commitment to implementing rigorous standards for both teachers and students. If we want to improve upon these positive trends, Connecticut public school districts must remain focused on high-quality learning experiences for their students and meaningful professional development opportunities for their educators.

“Although today’s results are generally positive, our analysis still suggests that we have much work to do in narrowing gaps in achievement: even though the state saw improvement across the board, the pace of improvement has been faster for White students than students of color. This should remind us all of the need to identify and scale practices that work for our highest-need student groups.

“Notably, almost half of the state’s lowest-performing districts have improved at even faster rates than the state. These “Alliance Districts” are part of a program that has provided increased state-level oversight and significant additional funding. While today’s results demonstrate the promise of that effort, we now need to unpack which actions are making a difference within these high-need districts. CCER is currently undertaking a research study of the Alliance District program since its inception in 2012. Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures, we hope to identify impactful initiatives and make recommendations for further refining the state’s intervention model.

“Overall, we are certainly heartened by these preliminary data. Now, we must demand year-over-year improvement if we are to close Connecticut’s worst-in-the-nation achievement gap. Our students deserve nothing less.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CT SAT Results Show Persistent Achievement Gaps

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, August 3, 2016, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) released the results of the first administration of Connecticut SAT School Day, in which all 11th grade public school students took the newly redesigned SAT. This was part of a statewide effort to eliminate testing burden and increase equity by replacing the statewide assessment with the college entrance exam. In response to the release of the results, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), made the following statement:

“Simply put, these results aren’t good enough. But they are not surprising either. 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.

“For years now, Connecticut has had one of the worst achievement gaps in the country, as demonstrated by the National Assessment for Educational Progress. These SAT results are yet another dataset in a long stream of tests that continue to identify a serious problem with public education in our state. In fact, last year’s 2015 Smarter Balanced (SBAC) results showed similar trends across the state: wide gaps in achievement across economic and racial lines. It seems like, no matter which data you choose, these gaps jump out as a problem. Make no mistake: the failure to close these gaps is not reflective of these students’ abilities; rather, it is a systemic failure.

“The SAT results released today also indicate a worrisome trend about Connecticut’s math instruction, a trend that was mirrored by last year’s SBAC results. The development of math skills requires a strong foundation, rigorous instruction, and aligned curricula year-over-year. Right now, with 60% of our students not meeting expectations in math, it’s clear that something is seriously wrong with our system. It is not enough just to adopt standards. We must invest in the development and consistent implementation of a high-quality curriculum. We must provide teachers with the training and tools necessary to teach these skills. We must ensure that students have the time and support necessary to successfully master the curriculum. And, finally, we must prepare school leaders who can set the stage for these things to happen.

“When Connecticut students graduate high school, they should already be on a path to success, and these data show that they aren’t. As a state, we have to react to data points like these by seeking solutions. Our state has a lot of work to do.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–PEAC Decision Delays Systemic Accountability

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: (203) 506-5799

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, March 9, 2016, the Performance Evaluation Advisory Council (PEAC) voted to recommend to the State Board of Education to decouple teacher evaluations and the state’s standardized assessment for another year. This means that districts will still not be required to tie results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment to their teachers’ evaluation results in 2016-2017, although they will retain the option to do so. In response to PEAC’s decision, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), made the following statement:

“PEAC’s recommendation to delay the full implementation of Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system for a third consecutive year raises a great deal of concern. The teacher evaluation model that the state envisioned and developed in 2012 was designed to be balanced–including both objective and subjective measures of teacher performance. Because that system has never yet been fully implemented, we have been prevented from fully understanding how well it works and whether it needs to be refined. What we do know, however, is that our state must pursue a system that holds educators and administrators accountable for improved outcomes, and that provides meaningful and appropriate professional development for our hard-working educators.

“We fully understand that the members of PEAC are concerned about identifying a perfect metric by which to incorporate learning measures into evaluations. But we should not let ‘perfection’ become the enemy of ‘good.’ I urge PEAC to accelerate its pace.

“Let’s not forget that each child has only one opportunity for a quality education. We need to start implementing evaluations in a way that is meaningful, and making adjustments as we go. Our students deserve so much better than years and years of delay.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Coalition of Leading Education, Parents, Business, Community Organizations Oppose Efforts to Weaken State’s Education Evaluation System

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT:Byron McCauley
EMAIL: Byron.McCauley@conncan.org
PHONE: (513) 504-8915

 

Today, the Connecticut General Assembly Joint Committee on Education will hold a public hearing on SB 380, AN ACT CONCERNING THE EXCLUSION OF STUDENT PERFORMANCE RESULTS ON THE MASTERY EXAMINATION FROM TEACHER EVALUATIONS. The bill explicitly removes the Smarter Balanced assessment from evaluations starting in 2016-2017, saying that multiple indicators of student achievement growth shall not include the statewide mastery exam.

HARTFORD, Conn. – (March 7, 2016) – A coalition of education, community and business organizations encourages members of the Connecticut General Assembly’s Education Committee to oppose efforts to prematurely revise the teacher and principal evaluation system, as proposed by SB 380 that will be discussed in a public hearing today.

The coalition includes the Connecticut Parent Teacher Association (PTA), the Urban League of Southern Connecticut, Hartford Parent University, Radical Advocates for Cross-Cultural Education, the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, the Connecticut Association of Schools, the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, the Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now and the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents.

Ongoing and effective evaluations are an essential tool to help both teachers and principals to identify their strengths, areas of growth and professional development. We oppose the measure being considered in SB 380 for the following reasons:Read More »

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Refinements to SBAC Mean More Learning Time

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
EMAIL: Nicki.Perkins@ctedreform.org
PHONE: 203-506-5799

Refinements to SBAC Mean More Learning Time

New Haven, Connecticut – Today, the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) and Governor Dannel P. Malloy announced that Connecticut will eliminate the performance tasks on the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), since they are often duplicative of classroom work. This elimination will shorten the test by up to an hour and forty-five minutes in grades three through eight. In response, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of CCER, made the following statement:

“I congratulate Governor Malloy and the CSDE on working with the Smarter Balanced Consortium to fine-tune the delivery of the SBAC, saving valuable instructional time for Connecticut’s children. We must always work to balance the time spent on instruction with the need to assess children’s learning. By making the SBAC even shorter than any previous statewide assessments over the past three decades, we have made it easier than ever for classrooms to make focusing on students the top priority.

“In addition, CCER would also like to see the CSDE provide school districts with a model assessment calendar so that we can all work on reducing the number of district-level assessments that have been independently developed. We know that these local assessments are increasingly taking valuable instructional time away from our classrooms, often without providing us with the same level of high-quality information that we get from the annual, statewide assessment. We want Connecticut’s assessment system to be economical, effective, and efficient. This is a positive step toward ensuring an appropriate balance between instruction and accountability in our schools.”

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