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CT Viewpoints (opinion): Judge correctly identified need for systemic public education overhaul.

The ink isn’t yet dry on Judge Thomas Moukawsher’s ruling in CCJEFv. Rell — originally brought in 2005 — and Connecticut must already prepare to defend its educational practices in another court –this time federal.

These decades of trials, for all of their legal distinctions, ultimately come down to the same idea: Although Connecticut has a constitutional obligation to educate its students, it’s doing a bad job for many of them.

asked only to address the constitutionality of our spending– Moukawsher has found himself requiring the state to produce a plan that also addresses standards, human resources, special education, and the relationship between state and local government.

surely undertaking that challenge is better than spending precious state funds on defending future lawsuits, or facing the economic and moral implications of producing further generations of graduates who are unprepared to succeed in life.

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Better Outcomes Require More Than Funding

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 »

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

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

Read the full story here.

CT’s Stubborn Achievement Gap: Comparing Gaps Over Time, Across America

We’ve taken a look at the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) (the only test of academic achievement that is administered to all states across America) over time. When you look at the map, we have used eligibility for the national school lunch program as a proxy for coming from a low-income background, and then we’ve identified gaps in 4th and 8th grade Reading and Math. Since 2003, while other states have made progress and seen change, Connecticut’s achievement gap has remained wide and intransigent–among the worst in America.

Poverty Achievement Gaps Over Time

Mathematics and Low Income

Has the Gap in 4th Grade Math Changed Over the Years?

This map displays gaps in Math performance between low-income students and their peers at the 4th grade level. (NAEP State Comparisons) You can compare these gaps across states over time. The darker the color, the larger the gap. While the size of the gap varies a little bit from year-to-year in Connecticut, the gap consistently remains one of the worst in the country.

Mathematics and Low Income

Has the Gap in 8th Grade Math Changed Over the Years

This map displays gaps in Math performance between low-income students and their peers at the 8th grade level. (NAEP State Comparisons) You can compare these gaps across states over time. The darker the color, the larger the gap. While the size of the gap varies a little bit from year-to-year in Connecticut, the gap consistently remains one of the worst in the country.

Reading and Low Income

Has the Gap in 4th Grade Reading Changed Over the Years?

This map displays gaps in Reading performance between low-income students and their peers at the 4th grade level. (NAEP State Comparisons) You can compare these gaps across states over time. The darker the color, the larger the gap. While Connecticut has made some gains in reducing the size of the gap, it remains among the worst in the country.

Reading and Low Income

Has the Gap in 8th Grade Reading Changed Over the Years?

This map displays gaps in reading performance between low-income students and their peers at the 8th grade level. (NAEP State Comparisons) You can compare these gaps across states over time. The darker the color, the larger the gap. While Connecticut has made some gains in reducing the size of the gap, it remains among the worst in the country.

High Expectations at New Haven’s ESUMS Magnet School

The Engineering and Science University Magnet School (ESUMS) is a public college preparatory middle and high school in the New Haven Public School District, and it is producing some impressive results with its students. When the results of the 2015 Smarter Balanced Assessment came in, we quickly realized that the ESUMS students had outpaced the state and district in both English and Math. 2015 SBAC Data
Read More »

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

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.

Hartford Courant: Malloy celebrates a school’s turnaround — and his record

“We have miles to go. Don’t get me wrong,” Malloy said, but he added, “It may be time to celebrate some of our successes.”

One of 30 low-performing school systems designated by the state four years ago as Alliance Districts targeted for extra funding, Bloomfield is one of the few districts that has made steady progress in all of its schools, according to a study last year by the Connecticut Council for Education Reform.

 

 

“You have stayed the course,” Malloy told students and educators in a library decorated with a banner carrying the same marketing message the school system has posted on two highway billboards, “Raising the Bar is Taking us Far.”

Read the full piece here.

SeatingChair.com: School Report Shows Dip in Math Scores for Kansas Students

Tonya Becker

These tests allow educators to compare educational knowledge of students nationally, because unlike state-specific tests, the National Assessment of Education Progress uses the same test questions and same proficiency scores in every state.

North Dakota’s scores remain above the national averages. California’s average eight grade math score was higher than that of five states and Washington, D.C. and about the same as nine states.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said change takes time.

Read the full article here.

WNPR: Connecticut’s NAEP Scores Flatten, Worse in Fourth Grade Math

By David Desroches

 

The renewed focus on testing has been heavily criticized by some parents and many teachers. The Connecticut Education Association, which is the state’s largest teachers union, issued a statement after the NAEP scores were released, urging these scores to be viewed as the result of flawed policy.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said change takes time.

“We are working to raise academic standards, use data from a new state assessment, and develop a system for providing professional development to our educators,” Villar said in a statement. “These aren’t the types of changes that happen overnight, so we can’t expect scores to improve immediately.”

Read the full piece here.

CT Mirror Op Ed: Don’t Write Off Impoverished Kids

Check out Jeffrey’s response to a recent OpEd that predicted parents will react to low assessment scores by rebelling against testing and efforts to improve schools… We know the truth: that parents aren’t going to protect a system that is failing their own children!

This latest round of test results simply reinforces the fact that we need to change our educational system if we want to improve student learning. A student’s address does not need to define his or her future. And that’s not a truth that is hard for parents to get behind.

I became an educator because, as a child, I saw firsthand that my circumstances weren’t my destiny. Growing up, I watched my father, a Cuban immigrant, work to provide for his family. Self-employed with no medical insurance, no paid vacation, no sick days, he returned to work just days after being injured in a terrible accident because our bills wouldn’t get paid if he didn’t work. At the same time, I watched my mother return to school after having dropped out to raise three children. She eventually became the principal of a school. Through hard work and education, they proved that you can make something of yourself no matter where you come from. It is upon this foundation that they created the luxury of opportunity for me, sending me to college and setting me up to earn advanced degrees. They exemplified what this country is all about.

The education system can’t just write off tens of thousands of children for being poor or for having extra needs.

Read the full piece here.

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