CT Mirror: Test data matters for Connecticut. Education is a science

By Jeffrey Villar

In a recent piece covered by the CTMirror, Mary Quinn-Devine, an English teacher, says, “We’re not against testing. We’re against this test… It’s just data collection.” I couldn’t disagree more with these sentiments…

Imagine, if you would, a world in which we didn’t make data-driven decisions. What if we didn’t set safety standards based upon data about automobile safety? What if hospitals didn’t use data to track the success rates of surgical procedures? What if the Food and Drug administration didn’t use data to monitor the safety of new medications, or the Center for Disease Control didn’t track the spread of communicable diseases?

Despite what some would have you believe about the “art of teaching,” take it from a former superintendent and educator of 20 years: education is a science. We have research on data-driven practices that absolutely will make a difference for kids.

Read the full opinion here.



CT Post-Malloy announces Wentzell as education commissioner

Linda Conner Lambeck

Dianna Wentzell didn’t apply to become the state’s education commissioner, and she wasn’t an announced finalist.

But a few weeks ago, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, through his staff, pulled aside Wentzell, the state’s interim commissioner of education, and asked if she would reconsider.Read More »

Hartford Courant-Interim Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell Nominated For Permanent Post

HARTFORD — Dianna L. Wentzell, a 25-year veteran of Connecticut’s public school system, was nominated by the governor Friday as the new state education commissioner.

The state school board took one minute to vote unanimously to approve Wentzell, who has served as interim commissioner since the resignation of former Commissioner Stefan Pryor.

A former classroom teacher, Wentzell is the chief academic officer for the state education department. She has served as an assistant superintendent and deputy chief academic officer in Hartford public schools and worked in South Windsor as the director of literacy, assessment and instructional improvement.Read More »

Yale Daily News-Bill Proposing Charter School Moratorium Ignites Debate

Students, parents, lawmakers and education experts spent over 12 hours discussing the state Senate’s proposed moratorium on state charter schools last Thursday during the state’s Education Committee meeting.

A rally took place the day before at Booker T. Washington Academy, opposing the proposed Connecticut Senate Bill 1096. The bill proposes a two-year moratorium on public charter school approvals beginning July 1, 2015, during which the commissioner of education will review existing charter schools and make a plan for future charter schools, which will be due on Feb. 1, 2017. A similar moratorium occurred five years ago for all state magnet schools other than those in the Hartford area, but the review still has not been released.

“It’s not really clear what they hope to gain by this two-year moratorium,” said Lizanne Cox, the director of Common Ground, a local environmentally oriented charter school. She added that while her school will not be impacted as much as charter schools that have not yet been created, Bill 1096 does have the potential to impact existing charter-review processes. If the bill were to pass, charter schools currently in operation will need to submit annual audit reports, fiscal reports and background checks.

According to Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, the bill was proposed in response to the mismanagement of funds and allegedly falsified certifications at one Hartford charter school that is currently under investigation. He added that this investigation has sparked a larger debate over the expansion of charter schools in Connecticut.Read More »

The Bulletin-Our View: Eliminating student testing only delays education reform

By The Editorial Board

In addition to union representatives the editorial board also met with members of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and Jeffrey Villar, a former school superintendent and now director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, all of whom agreed that the pilot programs run in selected school districts over the last year or so have clearly demonstrated that SBAC and Common Core can work.

Connecticut students and parents are not served by delaying tactics in bringing about education reform, which is what we see the union effort to be. The Legislature should reject the union’s call to dismantle Common Core through the elimination of the SBAC tests.


Read the full piece here.

Litchfield County Times-Group says lack of Connecticut schools chief hurts education

Officials with a New Haven-based nonprofit agency that is focused on improving Connecticut schools say the lack of a decision on who the next state education commissioner will be is hurting efforts to improve public policy in that area.

“I think there are a lot of people treading water, waiting to see what the next commissioner’s direction will be,” said Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. Villar made his comment during a wide-ranging discussion of education issues with member of the New Haven Register’s editorial board.Read More »

Hartford Courant-Call For Moratorium On Charters Stirs Passionate Debate

A proposal for a two-year moratorium on public charter schools has ignited impassioned debate and tapped into long-standing disagreement over how well the schools perform and whether they drain needed resources from ordinary neighborhood schools.

“I ask that you consider our social, moral and American obligation to educate our youth and not further disable our true public school students…” said Dennis Bradley in legislative testimony in support of the moratorium. “It’s only logical … that we consider all positive and negative factors in the light of the best interest for our children.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 2.22.50 PMRep. Edwin Vargas, D-Hartford, who proposed the moratorium, said he supported the development of the state’s first charters back in the ’90s but has been disappointed with the performance of the schools.

Although the state says that 86 percent of charter elementary schools and 83 percent of charter high schools outperformed their host districts in 2013 on the state’s standardized tests, Vargas said that he wants more detail on how students are doing, on the funding for the schools and other operating policies.

“Over the years, we have to take their word, they are doing a great job, but there’s very little independent verification of any of it,” Vargas said.

Senate Bill 1096, raised by the education committee, calls for a halt on the approval of new charter schools after July 1, until the state education commissioner develops a comprehensive statewide charter school plan and conducts a review of existing charter schools. The plan would have to be submitted by Feb. 1, 2017, and would be reviewed by a legislative joint standing committee.

In addition, the bill would strengthen accountability for charters, and it calls for charter management organizations to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.Read More »

Hartford Courant: Bloomfield Schools Improve Test Scores, Gains Recognition

By Steven Goode

BLOOMFIELD — Local students have made significant strides on state standardized tests over the past few years, allowing the school system to reduce the achievement gap between white and minority students.

The town’s mostly minority student population has struggled for many years, scoring near the bottom statewide on test scores, along with cities such as Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven.

The improvement in scores has been noticed, marked by visits last year from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and former Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor. The town’s gains have also been mentioned in several books by educational leadership expert Larry Ainsworth, who dedicated a chapter to the schools in a book related to rigorous curriculum design.

ConnCAN, an education reform advocacy group, has also noted Bloomfield’s improvements and this year sponsored a school assembly recognizing Carmen Arace Middle School and Carmen Arace Intermediate School as “Success Schools.”

Most recently the Connecticut Council for Education Reform highlighted how the school system got to where it is today in a special report titled “The Bloomfield Blueprint for Closing the Achievement Gap.”Read More »

CT Mirror: What you should know about this year’s standardized testing

By Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Thousands of students across Connecticut will begin taking controversial new standardized tests Tuesday that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards…

And Jeffrey Villar, a former superintendent in districts including Rocky Hill and Windsor, said districts are interpreting the law differently.

“It just depends on the district,” said Villar, now the executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, a business-backed advocacy group.

For example, when he was the associate superintendent in Meriden, high school students were required to pass the CAPT exam to graduate.

This uncertainty in the law has left the door open to interpretation and criticism.

Read the rest of the story here.




WNPR: Connecticut Education Association Asks Legislators to Cut Back on Standardized Tests

By Lydia Brown

The Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, is calling on legislators to cut back on standardized testing in schools.

The news comes just days before Connecticut students begin taking the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test, known as SBAC.

The test is aligned with the Common Core State Standards.

Speaking on WNPR’s Where We Live, the union’s executive director, Mark Waxenberg, said the CEA would like to see an alternative system of year-round progress testing, which monitors student growth at shorter intervals within a school year.

“The issue with the one-time tests being taken in the spring is that it doesn’t help the teacher understand where the needs of the children are,” Waxenberg said. “It’s a one-time shot.”

But Jeffrey Villar of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform disagrees. He said the SBAC’s use of computer technology instead represents the next generation of testing in Connecticut. Read More »