The State Department of Education is reporting “greater numbers of parents desiring to remove their child(ren) from participation in the statewide testing program.” In response, the department’s Academic Office has issued these suggested protocols and sample letter for districts’ use as part of its December Newsletter.
Bridgeport educators, parents, and community members showed their optimism about the possibility for change in their district by rallying last night before the first meeting of Bridgeport’s new Board of Education.
Addressing the Board, Gary Peluchette, president of the Bridgeport Education Association, said that teachers look forward to working with the new Board and creating sustainable, positive change for the district.
The educators and community members also called for the board to reinstate two Parent Center positions that the district had previously eliminated. Peluchette told the Board, “As teachers, we know that parental engagement is vital to ensuring a student’s success in the classroom. Learning doesn’t stop at the end of the school day. Parents are our partners in making sure every child in Bridgeport receives a quality education.”
The state’s largest teacher organization urges people to be careful not to miss the big picture when analyzing Connecticut’s new School and District Performance Reports.
CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “The takeaway from the new documentation provides validation that we know what works in public education and optimism about continued student growth.”
Cohen explained, “The volume of data provided in the reports can be a bit intimidating, but we think it’s worth everyone’s time to delve deeper and think deeply about the story that’s evolving. It’s a powerful narrative chronicling how teacher expertise and educator input in school reform make all the difference. This is happening in our traditional public schools, and it’s happening now.”
CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg said, “In our most challenged schools, teachers have too often been shut out of decision making. But recently, in the face of rapid change, there have been new opportunities to lead. Teachers seized those opportunities in areas such as curriculum development, professional development, and programs to reach the needs of every child—to name just a few. Now—with the release of the new state reports—we can commend student achievement and teachers’ commitment to excellence.”
Waxenberg said Stanton School in Norwich is an example of the remarkable progress he wants to underscore. “Teachers at Stanton got the authority and tools they deserved, and they ran with the ball. Other approaches to reform—such as the private, third-party operator approach being used at Jumoke Academy at Milner Elementary School in Hartford—are simply not producing the same kind of success.”
Stanton’s remarkable progress has required the selfless dedication of teachers, according to Billie Shea, the principal of Stanton School in Norwich. “Our teachers have been so positive with so much change. They worked all summer on new curriculum, always with a smile. The teachers are incredible,” said Shea earlier this year.
Cohen added that critical resources count, too, with the state’s Network Schools using new state financial support to plan and implement initiatives involving teachers in critical roles.
Yesterday, in another major win for Connecticut school children, a Connecticut trial court rejected the State of Connecticut’s attempt to dismiss a major school funding case. The case, Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell, was brought nine years ago to claim that the state’s system of funding education is inadequate, unequal, and therefore unconstitutional.
The lawsuit, which seeks to increase state funding to school districts, is a recognition that teachers are being asked to do more with less. CCJEF v. Rell seeks to ensure that the state provides its fair share of funding at a time when schools and educators are being held increasingly accountable for the performance of students, many of whom face the great socioeconomic challenges.
In a preliminary ruling in 2010, the State Supreme Court established that Connecticut’s Constitution guarantees public school students an adequate education. CCJEF v. Rell is set to be heard by the State Supreme Court this summer to determine the state’s fiscal responsibility for ensuring that the state abides by this constitutional guarantee to its citizens.
We join with the worldwide community in mourning the passing of human rights champion Nelson Mandela. He led South Africa through a difficult transition to democracy and proved true his own famous words, “Never doubt that one person can make a difference in the world.”
Mandela will be remembered as a courageous leader who advocated for the rights and dignity of all people and brought his country together at a time when many thought it couldn’t be done. His legacy leaves us with a vision of the kind of change that’s possible and the hope that we, too, can transform the injustices we witness in our lives.
Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” As educators we especially remember these inspiring words today as we keep his memory alive — teaching, mentoring, and learning alongside the children we have proudly chosen to serve.
Too often changes in education come from the top down, teachers have little say in the process, and results are mixed. But when unions and district leaders partner together in innovative ways they can effectively and sustainably raise student achievement.
These are some of the preliminary results from a study led by Rutgers Professor Saul Rubenstein, showing that union-management partnerships are a promising alternative to narrow market-driven or accountability strategies for reform.
The quality of the partnership between teachers and administration at a school was found to be key in improving student achievement, and in one case accounting for up to a 45-point improvement on the state’s academic performance index.
The study found four important factors that enabled collaboration.
- The motivation to collaborate on both sides.
- An emphasis on working together on substantive issues, such as evaluation plans, curriculum, and professional development.
- Systems that support teachers and administrators learning the same information at the same time and building working relationships.
- Support from the wider community, local board of education, and national union.
The quality of the partnership at a school was rated by the teachers, and the study showed that the partnership rating was related to the frequency of union representatives’ conversations with the principal.
At high-partnership schools, union representatives and principals had at least weekly, if not daily, formal and informal conversations. In low-partnership schools, the conversations often took place less than weekly and were more likely to be formal.
The complete study will be released by the Center for American Progress within the next two months.
The State Education Mandate Relief task force met for the first time today and immediately approved expanding the group’s charge to find ways to provide mandate relief to all school districts across the state, not just those in high-performing districts. One of the topics addressed was how to reduce the cost of the new teacher evaluation process.
Task force member Rep. Paul Davis, who represents the towns of Milford, Orange, and West Haven, said feedback he’s heard from his districts is that implementation of the teacher evaluation process is “very expensive for them to do.” He urged the committee to look at what can be done to “make it more financially effective.” Davis added, “We can do the job in a less expensive manner.”
Fellow task force member Rep. Gail Lavielle agreed that the goal is to improve efficiencies. “Some districts that are very far along in the process are spending twice as much time now doing what they were doing before.” She added, “We are all interested in a top-quality education, but we need to find ways to do a better job of using our money, and in different ways.”
Weston superintendent and task force member Dr. Colleen Palmer said districts need to have “flexibility” because one-size-fits-all mandates don’t work and often require onerous and redundant reporting. She suggested allowing districts to achieve their goals in their own way, through innovation and flexibility.
“Right now our hands are so tied regarding how we must expend limited resources,” she said. “We feel we could do a better job if we had flexibility,” said Palmer.
The group plans to meet again on Dec. 19, and hold a public hearing on January 10, 2014.