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Hartford Courant: Smarter Balanced Test Will Eliminate Essay Writing, Shaving Nearly 2 Hours Off Exam

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, praised Malloy and the state Department of Education for an effort to ‘fine-tune the delivery’ of the Smarter Balanced test.

Malloy emphasized Thursday that his announcement does not signal a backing away from the test. ‘We are not getting rid of the Smarter Balanced test,’ he said.

Read the full story here.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–Refinements to SBAC Mean More Learning Time

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
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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Norwich Bulletin: Jeffrey Villar: Abandoning SBAC test would be impractical, fiscally irresponsible

“Given that Connecticut is federally required to use an annual assessment that meets vigorous external validation, it just doesn’t make financial sense to abandon the SBAC after all the work that went into it, and after only a single use. If we toss out the SBAC, finding a replacement will be an incredibly expensive and time-consuming prospect — one that would actually take years of development.

At a time when our Legislature is desperate to make budget cuts, we owe it to our citizens to make good on our investment in this strong, innovative and meaningful assessment. The SBAC is going to work if we give it the chance.”

Read the full story here.

Hartford Courant: Revamped, More Challenging SAT Arrives Next Month

Jeffrey Villar, the former superintendent of Windsor and now executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said he is concerned about the equity of using the SAT as a state test when wealthier families can pay for prep programs that poorer families can’t afford.

Read the full story here.

Districts Making Smart, Data-Based Decisions


In December, we acknowledged the Meriden Public Schools for its innovative use of data to drive decision-making. When a district integrates regular data analysis into its teaching and leadership practices, the whole community can start to make informed decisions about what’s working for kids. And, when we conducted an analysis of Meriden’s data and IT systems in 2013, we learned that Meriden is really using some creative approaches to monitoring the well-being, academic outcomes, and progress of its teachers.

That’s why we collaborated with the district to produce a website that highlights some of Meriden’s achievements and also provides other district leaders with a starting point for self-reflection and improvement of their own data and IT systems. This Data Systems Guidebook contains a self-evaluation tool that we really hope will facilitate discussions among district-level school leaders about data and IT systems. (Don’t worry: the site does not save any of the data. We can’t see your responses when you fill out the evaluation. It’s for your internal use only!) The self-evaluations are broken out into three areas that are critical to ensuring sound data practices: district-wide practices, school-level practices, and technology infrastructure. Although the self-evaluations are the website’s focus, this tool is not meant to be used for strictly evaluative purposes. Ultimately, we hope districts will use this tool to develop priorities for improvement in the areas of data and IT.

As an example, let’s take a look at the first area, District Performance.

As you can see, this chapter is divided into several subsections—topics that districts will need to consider if they’re going to develop well-thought-out district-level data systems. The first sub-section is about strategic planning.Read More »

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–All Must Sacrifice for Education

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

All Must Sacrifice for Education 

Hartford, Connecticut – Today, February 3, 2015, Governor Malloy gave his budget address for FY 2016-17. In response, Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER), made the following statement:

“We are pleased that Governor Malloy continues to show support for education, even during a tight budget year. Since 2012, Governor Malloy has been an advocate for improving public education, and his proposal to protect the Education Cost Sharing grant during a time of great fiscal distress reflects a strong commitment to our schools and students.

“That said, the Governor’s budget also proposes reduced funding for Connecticut’s priority school districts. I have serious concerns about such a proposal because these cuts will specifically target Connecticut’s highest-need districts—precisely those who need funding the most.

“In addition, I worry about any cuts to the Connecticut State Department of Education, which is already struggling to establish the necessary capacity to monitor and assist public school districts. CCER fully recognizes that the state must make some tough choices this session. But much like a family that sacrifices to send a child to college, Connecticut needs to tighten its belt while investing in the education of its children.”

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CT Post: Malloy’s budget plan tightens belt on education

Now funded at $43.7 million for 15 communities statewide, the plan would cut Priority District spending back to $42.2 million.

“I have serious concerns about such a proposal, because these cuts (in the priority grant) will specifically target Connecticut’s highest-need districts — precisely those who need it the most,” Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education reform, said in a prepared statement.

Read the full story here.

NBC Connecticut: First Statewide Teacher Evaluation Documents Released

‘I think we need to take a look at it and make sure we have some changes and make sure we have results that are meaningful and if everyone is given an ‘A’ then that’s not really meaningful results,’ Villar said.

Watch the video here.

2016: Can We Keep the Focus on Kids?

For the past several years, CCER has released an annual report on the state’s progress in passing and implementing our long-term plan to raise academic outcomes for all students, regardless of their race or socio-economic status. Based upon the recommendations we initially put forth in 2011, we developed a rubric so that we can both qualitatively and quantitatively track this progress.

At the end of 2015, we moved to an online format, so that you can track Connecticut’s progress in real time. So far, the state has fully implemented over 37% of our recommendations. We’ve accomplished so much, but there’s still a lot left to do.

We know that a lot of the upcoming legislative session is going to be focused on the budget deficit. But we also know that investing in Connecticut’s students is the best way our state can improve its economic prospects.

Read on to check out what we’ve accomplished to date, and how our 2016 policy priorities will keep the focus on kids!Read More »

Hartford Courant: Teachers want evaluation system changed

Others call it too soon to scrap the system. Jeffrey Villar, a former Windsor school superintendent who now heads the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said he knows first hand the challenges the new evaluation has presented but remains committed to the idea that teachers have a critical impact upon student learning and therefore there must be a connection between student learning and teacher evaluation.

“To call for a complete disconnect eliminates accountability,” Villar said. Rather than hold press conferences, Villar said CEA should be addressing their concerns to the statewide committee that developed the standards.

Read the full piece here.