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The Middletown Press – Connecticut school reform advocates: Time to improve lowest-performing districts

By Brian Zahn

In a meeting with the New Haven Register’s editorial board Friday, Villar said CCER’s principal legislative priority in 2017 is for greater focus in how Alliance Districts — the 30 lowest-performing districts in the state — use their state grant funds.

“A lack of disruption can actually improve results,” he said.

In a joint qualitative study with the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, CCER looked at the improvement plans those 30 districts submitted to the state over four years and concluded that, because the state changed its requirements each year, the program’s goal of innovation was not being met in most districts.

Read the full story here.

The Register Citizen – Connecticut school reform advocates: Time to improve lowest-performing districts

By Brian Zahn

In a meeting with the New Haven Register’s editorial board Friday, Villar said CCER’s principal legislative priority in 2017 is for greater focus in how Alliance Districts — the 30 lowest-performing districts in the state — use their state grant funds.

“A lack of disruption can actually improve results,” he said.

In a joint qualitative study with the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, CCER looked at the improvement plans those 30 districts submitted to the state over four years and concluded that, because the state changed its requirements each year, the program’s goal of innovation was not being met in most districts.

Read the full story here.

New Haven Register – Connecticut school reform advocates: Time to improve lowest-performing districts

By Brian Zahn

In a meeting with the New Haven Register’s editorial board Friday, Villar said CCER’s principal legislative priority in 2017 is for greater focus in how Alliance Districts — the 30 lowest-performing districts in the state — use their state grant funds.

“A lack of disruption can actually improve results,” he said.

In a joint qualitative study with the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, CCER looked at the improvement plans those 30 districts submitted to the state over four years and concluded that, because the state changed its requirements each year, the program’s goal of innovation was not being met in most districts.

Read the full story here.

Bringing the Alliance District Program into Focus

Connecticut’s 30 highest-need districts have been called the “Alliance Districts” since 2012. Each year, they receive increased state funding in exchange for producing annual district improvement plans. In total, the state has invested almost half a billion dollars in this program since its inception. In theory, the purpose of these extra funds is to promote innovation. However, many district leaders have reported needing to use the funding to cover much more routine expenses, due to reductions in local funding.

To date, no formal study has been conducted to measure the impact of the Alliance District program overall.

Focus: How Long-term Planning Processes Can Improve State-Led Turnaround in Connecticut is a study of the Alliance District program that was conducted by a research team at the Neag School of Education at UConn. It analyzes the effectiveness of the required annual district improvement plans as tools for change. In addition, it explores the link between these plans and some positive outcomes that districts within the program have seen over time. The findings in this study raise important implications for how best to strengthen the Alliance District program and leverage state improvement dollars.Read More »

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CCER Releases Findings of Alliance District Study

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

 

CT Mirror – UConn Researchers Say CT’s Chief Education REform Plans Lack Coherence

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

The Alliance District approach was created by lawmakers in 2012 to get the state more involved in improving chronically struggling districts. Now in its fifth year, this report on is the first to assess how the program has done.

Jeffrey Villar, the executive director of CCER, said during a press conference at the Capitol complex that he is concerned that this program is providing too little value under its current setup.

child,” said Joseph J. Cirasuolo, the executive director of the school superintendent’s group, which is part of the coalition suing the state.

Read the full story here.

Focus: How Long‑term Planning Processes Can Improve State‑Led Turnaround in Connecticut

The focus of this report, commissioned by the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) and executed by a research team at the Neag School of Education of the University of Connecticut, is to provide insights into how Connecticut’s 30 Alliance Districts—those with the greatest need and a large external investment by the state to support improvement—articulate their yearly improvement plans. It was also to begin to ascertain how these different articulations may relate to different aspects of improved performance.

  • Click here to access the full report by the Neag School of Education.
  • Click here for CCER’s policy implications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inkling News: Connecticut Calls for Reevaluation of State Education System and Funding

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, points out that revamping Connecticut’s school system stretches far beyond rationalizing the distribution of funding—it also requires a revamping of the attitudes in and towards lower income schools.

“All [students are] innately capable- but we send messages to some children saying, ‘We don’t expect much from you,’ then we say to other children, ‘You could be the next supreme court justice,’” Villar says.

Read the full story here.

New Haven Register (opinion): New Haven superintendent’s departure underscores need to stabilize local control

Connecticut will barrel into a period in which Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven will all be searching for new district leaders — and competing for top candidates. The timing could not be more perfect for the recent superior court decision in CCJEF v. Rell, which called attention to the irrationality of our education system — including Connecticut’s deference to local control. Indeed, as we’re seeing in all three large districts, local control can often create instability that is unfair to kids.

New Haven will undergo a difficult period of transition that leaves administrators and teachers guessing which initiatives most deserve their attention. They will probably have to acclimate to an interim leader before they get a steadier presence in the Superintendent’s office. And even then, how long will this next leader last? Throughout the leadership vacuum, teachers will do what they simply must: close their classroom doors and struggle to meet their students’ needs on their own.

Bridgeport is soon to face a similar vacuum, from the sounds of it, resulting from a total deterioration of the local board.

Isn’t there a better way?

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CCJEF Appeal Is No Excuse for Delay

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

 

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