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How Summer Learning Programs Can Help Close Connecticut’s Achievement Gap

By: Rae Ann Knopf and Nicki Perkins

As Connecticut continues its work on closing the achievement gap during these summer months, it’s important to know that some disparities in academic performance between students of different socio-economic statuses can be traced to unequal learning opportunities over the summer vacation.  Nationally, students of all backgrounds tend to lose about one month of their math and reading gains from the prior academic year each summer. We call this “summer learning loss.” According to last year’s study by the RAND Corporation, low-income students are disproportionately affected by summer learning loss. On average, low-income students lose two months of reading skills, with losses accumulating over multiple summers.

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Commissioner’s Network Update: Four Districts Invited to Develop Turnaround Committees and Plans

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Today, the State Department of Education announced that they have invited four districts to establish turnaround committees and begin developing turnaround plans for schools that will be considered for selection into the Commissioner’s Networkfor the 2012-2013 school year. The districts have proposed the following schools for participation in the Commissioner’s Network:

  • Bridgeport: James J. Curiale School
  • Hartford: Core Knowledge Academy at the Thirman L. Milner School
  • New Haven: High School in the Community
  • Norwich: John B. Stanton School

All four schools have been designated as “In Need of Improvement” for four or more years and at least 75% of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch. Read More »

The Commissioner’s Network: A Key Strategy for Turning around CT’s Lowest-Performing Schools

With 135 schools that have been designated as “In Need of Improvement” for five or more years, the Commissioner’s Network of schools is an innovative and strategic approach to turning around Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools. Established in Senate Bill 458, the Commissioner’s Network provides the State Department of Education with the flexibility and resources to intervene in and support the turnaround of twenty-five of Connecticut’s lowest-performing schools within the next three years. Read More »

Alliance Districts: A Powerful Improvement Strategy for Connecticut Schools

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By Rae Ann Knopf, Executive Director of CCER

As we move to support the implementation of innovative strategies and interventions framed by the education reform policies enacted in 2011 and 2012, we should not underestimate the importance and potential of the Alliance District program.  With 129 of the 130 public elementary and secondary schools identified as in need of improvement for five years or more located in an Alliance district, the program is designed to compel education leaders to prioritize funding to turnaround persistently low performing schools and close achievement gaps for all students.  With the recent passage of Senate Bill 458 and elements of the approved waiver to the No Child Left Behind provisions now codified in Public Act 12-116, it is more important than ever that we adopt the most promising interventions for raising student performance and closing Connecticut’s largest in the nation achievement gap.

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A Look at Key Elements of Connecticut’s Education Reform Bill

Connecticut’s Year of Education Reform produced a landmark education reform bill.  Senate Bill 458 mandates the type of integrated changes that will help Connecticut to close its achievement gap while raising academic outcomes for all students. A summary of key elements of Senate Bill 458 is below.  The full bill can be found here and an analysis of the bill by the Office of Legislative Research can be found here.

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Turning Around Connecticut’s Low-Achieving Schools: A Leadership Challenge

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Ramani Ayer is vice-chair of the CT Council for Education Reform and retired chairman & CEO of The Hartford Financial Services Group.

With 135 schools that have been designated as “In Need of Improvement” for five or more years, it is imperative that Connecticut develop a framework for turning around our low-achieving schools.  In February, Governor Malloy released an education reform bill (S.B. 24) that called for such a framework. It proposed categorizing districts and schools into five performance levels, and establishing a Commissioner’s Network in which the State Department of Education could intervene in the lowest-achieving schools.  Despite being based upon proven frameworks from neighboring states, this proposal was significantly weakened by the Education Committee’s substitute language. Read More »

Lessons from a Successful State

Recently, we observed that despite having similar demographics to Connecticut–Massachusetts has both a narrower achievement gap and a low-income population that outperforms Connecticut’s on some key national assessments.  Furthermore, Massachusetts’ non low-income students rank first in the nation on many national assessments.  So, how has Massachusetts managed to achieve these enviable gains in student performance for both low-income and non-low-income students? What Massachusetts Has Been Doing Right:In 1993, Massachusetts passed an Education Reform Act, a major reform package, the implementation of which focused on (amongst other things):

  • improving educator quality by developing professional expectations for teachers and school leaders, and linking these expectations to recertification;
  • increasing state assistance in turning around “underperforming schools”, and increased intervention authority for “chronically underperforming schools”; and
  • increasing funding for the neediest schools by creating a “foundation budget”, which defined adequate funding for districts based on standards about how a school should function; this budget rose and fell with changes in the student population, and with percentages of low-income students. The foundation budget was also gradually increased over time, and had almost doubled by 2007.

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Just How Radical is S.B. 24? – Part 2

A Comparative Look at School Turnaround Policies and Intervention Authorities in Connecticut’s Neighboring States

Earlier in the week, we compared the proposals put forth by Governor Malloy in Senate Bill 24 (S.B. 24) by taking a look at the way in which all of our neighboring states have been incorporating measures of effectiveness into their teacher employment policies.

Today, we’re taking a look at how the proposals in S.B. 24 compare to our neighboring states’ intervention frameworks and the Commissioner of Education’s authority to intervene in the state’s lowest-performing schools.

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Malloy: “Let’s speak bluntly: many parts of our system of public education are broken.”

“Let’s be honest with ourselves, and let’s speak bluntly: many parts of our system of public education are broken.”

– Gov. Malloy introduces the topic of education in his State of the State Address 

The 2012 Legislative Session is now underway.  For those of us who insist time and again that the only way to bring lasting changes to Connecticut is to introduce a portfolio of reforms that link issues of policy, funding and action to the needs and experiences of the students (rather than the adults) – our time is now.

In the past few weeks, Governor Malloy and Commissioner Pryor have unfolded a bold and impressive proposal for education reform that is highly aligned with the recommendations put forth by the Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement, CCER’s precursor organization, in its 2010 Report.  From intensive school turnaround strategies to forward-thinking models of educator preparation, certification, evaluation, compensation, retention, and professional development – we believe the Governor is on the right track.  What follows is a discussion of a few of the areas of alignment between CCER’s recommendations and Governor Malloy’s education proposals:Read More »

The Commissioner’s Role in Turnaround, Part 1

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Ramani Ayer, former CEO of Hartford Financial Services Group

In order for Connecticut to close it’s the achievement gap, which is the largest in the nation, the Commissioner must improve the state’s low-achieving schools.  It is both an economic and moral imperative for Connecticut to begin aggressively turning around schools that have failed its students year after year, some for as long as 9 and 10 years, and develop them into high-achieving schools that provide every student with the knowledge and skills to achieve success.

The new Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, recently requested $25 million from Governor Malloy’s administration to dedicate toward turning around the state’s lowest-performing districts and schools.  As the Commissioner prepares to tackle this important issue, he should focus on three key actionsRead More »

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