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The CT Candidate’s Guide to Public Education in 2018

In 2018, several organizations that care strongly about public education got together to create a non-partisan guide for gubernatorial candidates about the state of public education in Connecticut. This short document presents facts about public education today, as well as a broad vision for Connecticut’s future.

Our state’s economic vitality and moral integrity depend upon providing a high-quality experience to all public school students. That’s why it is our hope that Connecticut’s 2018 candidates will actively engage with the issues confronting public schools and discuss solutions for improvement.

The Literacy Leadership Institute

Dear School Leader, 

The education landscape is riddled with abandoned initiatives that have failed to deliver on their hefty promises. What goes wrong? Was the initial research that compelled us to embrace the approach flawed?  Did we err in our selection of the strategy?  Or did we simply fail to effectively implement the initiative with fidelity?  We can fall victim to the latter when we measure outcomes without also measuring outputs. “Outcomes” tell us about the long-term impact of our efforts, while “outputs” help us to identify whether an intervention was delivered in the first place.

To draw reasonable conclusions about whether an initiative in our school is working for our students, we need to see the relationships between outcomes and outputs. In other words, we need to monitor implementation

That’s the context for our upcoming leadership series, The Literacy Leadership Institute. This is an opportunity for select leaders—current and aspiring—to work with international and local experts on effectively implementing and monitoring literacy programs. This year-long series will help you think about what’s working in literacy, explore useful resources, and ramp up your literacy efforts. It will also impart broad leadership skills that will help you to monitor the implementation of other initiatives. (Click here to learn more!)

Applications are due December 1st, and we look forward to hearing from you. 


Karissa Niehoff | Executive Director, Connecticut Association of Schools

Jeffrey Villar | Executive Director, Connecticut Council for Education Reform 

The High School Principal: Leading for Innovation

This sold out event was designed for high school principals and their leadership teams, sponsored by the Connecticut Association of Schools (CAS) and the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER).

The High School Principal: Leading for Innovation

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 – Sheraton Hartford South Hotel

kafelePrincipal Baruti Kafele

Award-winning turnaround principal and best-selling author. Principal Kafele will discuss the nature of leadership for successful schools.

Dr. Douglas Reevesreeves

Distinguished author and international expert on school reform. Dr. Reeves will discuss the latest research on how high impact leadership can improve schools.

Plus: Panels and Sessions

School leaders will present on topics such as transformative high schools, innovative scheduling, STEM education, externships, team building, and more!

Districts are encouraged to bring a team, which may include district leaders, high school administrators, and teachers. You must register to attend:

Event Resources

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 »

Rigorous Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment

The second key priority in the Bloomfield Public Schools’ blueprint for success is a focus on rigorous curriculum, instruction, and assessment–the foundations of an effective school system.


All Bloomfield educators are working to implement a standards-based curriculum in English Language Arts and Math. Across the district, teachers have teamed up by grade and subject–with directors and instructional coaches. Together, they unwrapped the Common Core State Standards to develop units of study using the Rigorous Curriculum Design model. Thanks to this important work, today, practices in instruction and assessment are aligned to the Common Core.

At Carmen Arace Middle and Intermediate schools, curriculum writers used a resource book, The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded by James Burke, to help them better understand the nuances of the standards and how to execute them.

Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School uses the Creative Curriculum for preschool, which meshes rigorous curriculum3well with Connecticut’s Early Learning and Development Standards. They have also developed instruction based on a science/literacy focus. Using grant funds, all students participate in a two-hour field trip every three weeks to the Auerfarm, a local 4-H Educational Facility. This partnership provides a hands-on learning experience for students and enriches their acquisition of vocabulary and science concepts. As a result of their focus in this area, Wintonbury’s preschoolers have demonstrated significant improvements on a standardized vocabulary test administered at the beginning and end of each school year.

When the Big Picture High School was redesigned as the Global Experience Magnet School (GEMS) in 2012, the entire staff rewrote the curriculum to align with the Common Core. As a result, they were able to open their new school with an up-to-date curriculum in place. This work quickly began to produce results. On the 2014 CAPT assessment, GEMS led the district with 100% of their tenth graders reaching proficiency in both Science and Writing, as well as high scores in Reading and Math.

Click the image to read about GEMS Magnet School's partnership with China.

                        Click the image to read about GEMS Magnet School’s special partnership with China.

Magnet Schools of America, a Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit education association, recently recognized GEMS with a prestigious “School of Distinction” award. The honor–for exemplary curriculum, student performance, staff training, and leadership–is a rare accomplishment for a fledgling school in its third year of operation.

Across the district, all personnel are aware that maintaining alignment to the Common Core requires continuous work. As teachers are implementing the curriculum, they are now making further adjustments to refine and strengthen their original lesson plans based on their experiences teaching this material.


Professional development is also an important component of an effective educational system. Teachers need to feel comfortable with what they are required to teach, be acquainted with the most current research, and be aware of best practices in instruction.

Rigorous Curriculum1In Bloomfield, professional development is provided at both the school and district-levels. Sometimes, in-house experts lead the staff in their understanding of concepts. For instance, Bloomfield High School sometimes has teachers initiate sharing sessions as part of their early release Wednesdays.

Bloomfield also offers differentiated professional development through online resources and in-district workshops. At Laurel School, teachers watch exemplar lessons on an online platform called PD 360 (recently renamed Edivation). This platform provides on-demand, personalized learning through videos, courses, and lesson plans. After watching a video, teachers can record their own lessons and later critique each other during data teams. The willingness of Laurel’s teachers to participate in this type of activity is further proof of the collegial environment that has developed in the Bloomfield Public Schools.

The district’s instructional coaches can also provide embedded professional development in the classroom, where teachers are striving to improve their practices. Instructional coaches may model lessons, meet with data teams, or provide workshops on challenging instructional tasks.

Sometimes, the district brings in experts to help them with important initiatives. For example, in order to implement data teams, Bloomfield brought in the Leadership and Learning Center, nationally recognized leaders in this area. After the initial sessions, the district developed capacity in data teaming and conducted a comprehensive audit in 2013-14 with the Learning Center.

There is no better example of what happens when instruction and curriculum are aligned than at Metacomet School. On the 2013 Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT), Metacomet’s third graders scored above the state average in Reading, Writing, and Math. This is even more relevant given that the school is predominantly African American. In Connecticut, only 1 in 3 African American third graders read at grade level. (This is also true of Hispanic third graders in Connecticut.) Metacomet’s third graders are doing almost twice as well.


Rigorous Curriculum2Bloomfield regularly monitors student progress so that teachers can adjust instruction to meet the specific needs of each student.

Rather than focusing only on state assessments, the district also uses formative assessments to identify which concepts need to be reviewed with which students–keeping everybody on track. Formative assessments are quick snapshots of what students know and can do. They are not administered to provide report card grades and are not a final tally of what children have learned. Bloomfield teachers create their own simple checks to make sure students are on track every step of the way.

The district is also currently using Blue Ribbon Testing, an online assessment platform which provides immediate results broken down by individual student, classroom, grade, school, and district-levels. In addition to assessing student learning three times per year, this instrument provides resources and lessons for re-teaching.

As a district, Bloomfield Public Schools follows an assessment calendar so that all grades in all schools can administer tests at the same time and in the same way, and receive timely results.

Because teachers, principals and district administrators have formative, summative, and state-level test results to examine throughout the year, they are able to monitor each student’s progress very closely and create instructional plans based on that information.

To learn about Bloomfield’s other three priorities, or to return to the overview page, click on the buttons below.

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Positive School Climate

ClimateBloomfield’s third priority area focuses on developing a positive school climate. The district seeks to meet the National School Climate Standards by creating supportive communities of learners who demonstrate enthusiasm for learning and respect for one another. For students to be able to focus on learning, they need to feel comfortable and safe in their school environment. All Bloomfield schools have embraced this goal and are implementing it in a variety of ways.

Bloomfield High School has developed a mentoring program that matches every student in the school with
an adult mentor. Every other Wednesday, mentors meet with their mentees to see how they are doing School Climate2and to provide assistance, if necessary. They conference with students after each benchmark assessment and celebrate success with student assemblies once a month. The High School is working hard to create a culture of high expectations for all students, including Advanced Placement (AP) courses that are growing in participation, and additional supports to help students reach their potential. Athletics and arts programs are also highly acclaimed at Bloomfield High School.

At the Global Experience Magnet School (GEMS), every staff member has participated in two days of training on Positive School Climate by the Connecticut State Department of Education. The faculty focuses on restorative practices, rather than discipline. Students are brought together to talk, share, and reconcile when there is a conflict. GEMS also focuses on in-house team building activities. All juniors work at a Habitat for Humanity site to learn about community and develop citizenship. There have also been student trips to Costa Rica, South Africa, and China, which provide for substantive exposure to global cultures.

Laurel School is using Positive Behavior and Intervention Supports (PBIS) to teach students what isSchool Climate5 expected of them in every school environment and to recognize them for behaving appropriately. Recognition might include a student’s name listed on a hallway bulletin board and an opportunity to participate in a school-wide movie or assembly.

Metacomet School is also using PBIS. Students can be honored as a Student of the Month and invited to attend a monthly breakfast with their parents. Their teachers can nominate them for an Upstander Award, which entitles them to awards and a special photograph sent home to their parents.

Metcomet’s School Climate Specialist monitors data on student behaviors. When data indicate that disciplinary issues occur repeatedly in certain settings, the School Climate Specialist shares this Desi-Nesmith-surpriseinformation with staff so that they can re-teach expectations for appropriate behavior. Since this approach
was adopted in 2011, discipline referrals to the principal’s office have been reduced from 730 per year to less than 10 per year.

Discipline is rarely a problem these days at Metacomet School. In fact, the school’s climate is so positive that its teachers secretly nominated their principal, Desi Nesmith, for a national award. Unbeknownst to him, they completed a lengthy application to showcase his motivational presence and impact on the school community. Principal Nesmith was surprised to receive the very prestigious Milken award, for excellence in education leadership.

Carmen Arace Intermediate School also has a School Climate Specialist who monitors school climate data and plans activities to recognize students and teachers alike. The middle school conducts assemblies twice a month, during which students discuss hot topics and create journal entries on this information.

Across the district, adults and students are working together to make every Bloomfield school and classroom a positive and safe environment.

Click on the buttons below to learn about the three other priorities in Bloomfield’s blueprint, or to return to the overview page.


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Parent & Community Engagement

Parent ClipartBloomfield Public Schools’ fourth priority area is Parent & Community Engagement. The district and every school within it make clear that they view families and community as integral parts of the school system.

Bloomfield has a high degree of transparency regarding the work that is going on. For example, Bloomfield’s website contains specific information about the district and each school. Parents and community members can easily access School Accountability Plans and School Climate Survey results for information about school activities and community events. Parents are also able to track their students’ progress using an online Parent Portal that provides information about their children’s attendance, grades, and homework completion in real time.

In addition to their websites and online information, schools are finding many different ways to engage the community.

At Wintonbury Early Childhood Magnet School, parents are invited to visit the school for a “Second Cup of Coffee” on Thursday mornings. The principal and social worker station themselves in the school lobby to meet and greet parents, providing an informal opportunity for discourse and building relationships.

Parent and Community Engagement2Laurel School participates in the National Watch D.O.G.S.(Dads of Great Students) program, in which fathers or significant men in a child’s life volunteer to participate in assorted school activities, as assigned by the school principal or other administrator. This school-based family-involvement program encourages dads, grandfathers, and uncles to help out in the classrooms, assist with program monitoring, and even eat lunch with their child in the cafeteria. Participants need to undergo specific training before they can begin their work at the schools. Laurel School has been delighted with the success of this initiative.

At Metacomet School, there is a great emphasis on involving the community in schoolParent Engagement4programming. A number of local businesses and organizations come to the school to enrich the curriculum. For instance, Farmington Bank sends employees to Metacomet for a financial literacy day. Financial literacy has been woven into the existing curriculum, and students can also visit the Farmington Bank to open a $5.00 savings account or exchange their change for bills. Other community partners such as Home Depot and the Bloomfield Police Department send employees to visit the school and speak to the students about various topics.

Carmen Arace Intermediate and Middle schools build partnerships with their local communities, as well. They sponsor career days and field trips to local universities, and have also developed a STEM Day in which students learn about pre-engineering concepts and robotics.

Parent and Community Engagement3Bloomfield High School involves families throughout the year with events such as honor roll dinners, which usually attract over 300 people.

This year, the Bloomfield Public School district is also trying something new: a software package called Parent Tracker, which allows each school to log parent visits and participation every day of the school year. This information will provide a more accurate picture of parent involvement throughout the school year. Since Bloomfield has made parent and community involvement such a clear priority, we anticipate they will see great results with this tracker, as well.

Click on the buttons below to learn about Bloomfield’s three other priorities, or to return to the overview page.

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WPKN: The Millennials Take Over Show

On February 19th, Jeffrey Villar was interviewed by Scott Schere on WPKN’s “The Millennials Take Over Show.”

Listen to it here.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–CCER Prioritizes Pre-K and Human Capital in 2015

CONTACT: Nicki Perkins
PHONE: 203-506-5799

CCER Prioritizes Pre-K and Human Capital in 2015

New Haven, Connecticut – On Wednesday, January 21, 2015, the Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER) released its 2015 legislative and administrative priorities. According to Jeffrey Villar, Executive Director of CCER, these priorities are intended to improve public education in Connecticut by narrowing the achievement gap and raising academic outcomes for all students.

“As always,” Villar reported, “our top priority is to ensure that the historic reforms successfully passed in previous years are fully funded and implemented. But we also need to make new changes to keep improving the public education system.

“For instance, we want to further increase the number of School Readiness slots, setting aside new funding for low-income children to have opportunities to attend accredited programs. We also need to make sure that our low-income families can get access to that support, regardless of where they live in Connecticut.

“Additionally, we must elevate the teaching profession in several ways. To bring in more talent, we should enter into agreements with neighboring states, allowing educators who have successfully taught there to come and be licensed to teach within Connecticut too. Then, within the state, we need to improve our teacher preparation programs so that our new teachers are better prepared for the demands of teaching. We should also provide incentives to attract and retain excellent teachers to our neediest schools.

“At the same time, we can broaden our leadership pool by entering into administrator reciprocity agreements and adding Alternate Routes to Certification (ARCs).”

However, according to CCER, not all the needed changes are legislative.

“There are also some things that need to be done administratively,” Villar explained. “We have outlined several steps that the state can take to ramp up its interventions in low-performing districts. We’ve also recommended that regulations be amended to heighten admissions standards for teacher preparation programs. And, one of the most important things we’ve recommended is a focus on increasing the capacity of the State Department of Education.”

To read CCER’s 2015 legislative and administrative priorities, visit: .


About the Connecticut Council for Education Reform

The Connecticut Council for Education Reform (CCER)–a statewide, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) not- for-profit organization–works to close the achievement gap and raise academic outcomes for all students in Connecticut. The achievement gap is the disparity in academic achievement between children from low-income families and children of color, and their peers. We advocate for state policies and local practices that research shows have the best chance of raising achievement for high-need student populations.

For more information on CCER, go to

Require Alliance Districts to Imlement Teacher Induction Programs

Principle Recommendation

To ensure that beginning teachers are retained in Alliance Districts and that all teachers in the highest-need districts are high quality, the State Board of Education should require these districts to include effective beginning teacher induction programs and meaningful, embedded, and ongoing professional development for all teachers as part of their Alliance District funding applications.

Current Connecticut Statute

Although C.G.S. 10-145o established the state’s teacher induction program, TEAM (Teacher Education and Mentoring), implementation has been managed at the school district level.[i] Alliance Districts, which have high levels of teacher turnover and have a great need for beginning teachers, should have the most robust of induction programs for their newest educators.  While C.G.S. 10-262u allows for the expenditure of Alliance District funding for a talent strategy that will improve educator retention, the latest teacher turnover data from these districts (see below) suggest that existing strategies are ineffective and should be revised.

Supporting Research

Education Reform Districts[ii], the ten lowest performing school districts, and the 20 other Alliance Districts, have difficulty retaining educatorsAs the table below illustrates, the state’s 30 lowest performing school districts had high turnover from 2012 to 2014.

table 2

To fill these vacant positions, the lowest performing districts will have to recruit new teachers.  Retaining these new teachers will be a struggle since it is estimated that from 40% to 50% of new teachers leave within their first five years of teaching.[iii] Research suggests that comprehensive induction programs could improve the retention of these beginning teachers.[iv]

Additional benefits of comprehensive induction programs include an improvement of classroom educational practices and an increase in student achievement levels (over those teachers who did not have comprehensive induction programs). [v] Research shows that these successful induction programs include:

  1. Professional development with training over 2 to 3 years;[vi]
  2. Study groups so new teachers can network and learn from each other;[vii]
  3. Mentoring along with strong administrative support;[viii]
  4. Models for effective teaching during professional development and mentoring;[ix] and
  5. Opportunities for beginning teachers to visit exemplary classrooms.[x]

Additionally, after the first year of Rhode Island’s new and comprehensive teacher induction program, participants agreed that the program was having a positive effect on student learning.[xi] Rhode Island’s program includes formative assessments with which beginning teachers are informed and coached about how they can improve their instructional practices. [xii]

In Santa Cruz, California, which has used a comprehensive induction program for decades, new teacher retention is at 88%, which is 32% higher than the national average.[xiii] Santa Cruz’ program for new teachers is two years long and includes embedded and frequent professional development to help beginning teachers improve their classroom practice.[xiv]


[i] Induction in Connecticut, TEAM, retrieved from here
[ii] The Education Reform Districts are a subset of the Alliance Districts; they are the 10 lowest performing school districts.
[iii] Is There Really A Teacher Shortage?, Richard Ingersoll in a Research Report Co-Sponsored by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education and the Center for Teaching and Policy, Sept. 2003, retrieved from here.  
[iv] Impact of Induction and Mentoring Programs on Beginning Teachers: A Critical Review of the Literature, Richard Ingersoll and Michael Strong, Review of Education Research, June, 2011, retrieved from here
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Induction Programs That Keep New Teachers Teaching and Improving, Harry K. Wong, NASSP Bulletin, March 2004, retrieved from here
[vii] Ibid.
[viii] Ibid.
[ix] Ibid.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] Rhode Island Beginning Teacher Induction Program, retrieved from here
[xii] Ibid.
[xiii] Retention, The New Teacher Center, retrieved from here.
[xiv] Santa Cruz/Silicon Valley New Teacher Project Supports Quality Teachers and Teacher Retention, retrieved from here.