Wall Street Journal: Clash Over Connecticut Schools Flares Anew

By Joseph De Avila

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, an advocacy group that doesn’t support increasing school spending, said the state should change how it allocates money between wealthy and low-income school districts to make it fairer. But coming up with a system that doesn’t reduce funding for wealthier districts will be tough as the state faces a $1.5 billion deficit for the coming fiscal year that begins in July, he said.  “I think we face dramatic obstacles in resolving the issue,” Mr. Villar said.

Read the full piece here.

Yankee Institute: Connecticut on the naughty list: our schools aren’t nice to our kids

Connecticut’s naughty education policies betray one of its biggest challenges: the achievement gap between groups of students based on income and background. The Connecticut Council for Education Reform examined Department of Education data on 8th grade math performance to determine that the state has the largest achievement gap in America for low-income students. Achievement levels of white and African-American students show similar disparity.

Read the full piece here.

CT Town & City: Point-Counterpoint

Point-Counterpoint on Teacher Evaluation and Compensation begins on page 20.

By now, it is generally accepted that teachers are the most important in-school lever for improving academic outcomes. Quite rightly, they are also the biggest expense in our education system. So if our aim is to maximize our financial and human resources, we must encourage excellence in teaching. That means identifying how well our teachers perform (evaluation). And it means creating incentives so that excellent teachers are encouraged to stay on and work in our highest-need neighborhoods (compensation).

These issues are too complicated to iron out in a few paragraphs. But, at the end of the day, your position on both teacher evaluation and compensation will ultimately depend on whose needs you think Connecticut’s education system should be structured around serving: teachers or students. The CCJEF trial judge made clear that he believes the ultimate beneficiary of our education system should be kids, not adults. I tend to agree.

Read the full piece here.

Hartford Courant: Education Leaders In Connecticut Lack Enthusiasm For Trump’s Cabinet Choice

By selecting her, he is signaling that the U.S. Department of Education is going to chart a new course and it’s likely one that’s going to be dominated by school choice,” Villar said. “Her history is one of supporting vouchers vehemently and vouchers … are unlikely to have the impact on Connecticut schools that we really need to see.

Read the full piece here.

CTViewPoints: Innovation necessary to solve persistent certification problems

Since our traditional preparation programs haven’t been solving the longstanding problem of minority teacher recruitment, let’s give Relay a try.Since our traditional preparation programs haven’t been solving the longstanding problem of minority teacher recruitment, let’s give Relay a try.

Read the full piece here.

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.

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.

Hartford Courant: Gov. Malloy Touts Smarter Balanced Scores

Jeff Villar, executive director for the Connecticut Council on Education Reform, wasn’t so sanguine about the test results.

“The governor is 100 percent correct, Connecticut is showing positive progress as measured by improved graduation rates and year over year Smarter Balanced Scores which is good news,” Villar said in an email. “However, no matter how you dice it, nearly fifty percent of our Alliance Districts failed to make the level of progress that their peers have despite the addition of significant state funding and intervention. We must expect all Alliance Districts to make high levels of progress. In school, a 50 is still an F.”

“Connecticut must do better for all of our children. We need a greater sense of urgency if we are going to close our persistent gaps in student achievement across the state.

Read the full story here.

Hartford Courant: Student Scores Improve On Smarter Balanced Test

Connecticut students who took the state’s Smarter Balanced test in the spring showed significant improvement over last year, though less than half of the state’s students are meeting or exceeding the achievement standard on the math section of the exam.

Jeffrey Villar, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform, said the improvement in test scores is “encouraging,” but said “the pace of improvement has been faster for white students than students of color. This should remind us all of the need to identify … practices that work for our highest-need student groups.”

Read the full story here.

NewsTimes: After court battle, school funding debate will fall to Connecticut legislators

DANBURY — A legal fight that has been fought for years over the state’s formula for funding public schools is finally in the hands of a judge.

A coalition of Connecticut cities has long argued state aid should be redistributed more heavily from wealthy towns to poorer communities and urban areas.

At the same time, the cost of inaction is too high, Villar said.

It took us a decade to get to this point, and our kids can’t wait another decade for relief,” he said. “Every kid gets one shot at a school year, and then it’s gone.”

Read the full story here.