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CEA Executive Director: Charter School Transparency, Oversight & Fiscal Impact Need to Be Addressed

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg

CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg told the legislature’s Education Committee that charter schools have become a parallel school system allowed to play by a different set of rules.

Charter schools in CT, intended as laboratories of innovation, have become a parallel school system allowed to play by a different set of rules than those that govern traditional neighborhood public schools — and that needs to change. That was the message of CEA Executive Director Mark Waxenberg testifying before the state legislature’s Education Committee earlier this week.

Referring to the 1996 bill that first allowed charter schools to be established in Connecticut, Waxenberg said, “A good bill was highjacked by charter school management companies. They came in and saw an opportunity to educate the best and forget about the rest, which was not the intent of the bill.”

Waxenberg continued, “If legislators knew then what they know now, I’m not sure the charter school bill would have passed. We need to address areas of transparency and oversight, as well as the fiscal implications charter schools are having on a community.” Read more

Contact Your Members of Congress and Make Sure They Get Federal Education Policy Right

Congress is reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind/Elementary and Secondary Education Act — America’s cornerstone education legislation. Members of Congress need to hear the voices of educators to make sure they get reauthorization right.

Contact your members of Congress and find out more by clicking here.

CEA Supporting Legislation to Remove Stigma of Unsubstantiated Allegations

CEA attorney Chris Hankins told the legislature's Committee on Children that

CEA attorney Chris Hankins told the legislature’s Committee on Children that innocent educators need to be protected from long-lasting, negative stigma.

CEA is speaking out on behalf of innocent educators who, although cleared of wrongdoing, continue to bear the stigma of being labeled “alleged perpetrators” by the Department of Children and Families (DCF). CEA attorney Chris Hankins yesterday spoke on behalf of these educators before the Connecticut Legislature’s Committee on Children, saying that keeping records on these individuals as is statutorily required, serves no purpose other than to devastate upstanding, dedicated teachers.

Hankins said that the vast majority of DCF allegations against teachers come back unsubstantiated. Yet, even when evidence clearly indicates that a teacher could not have been involved as alleged, the DCF is required to keep records of the allegations against the teacher on file for five years.

That is why CEA is supporting Raised Bill 926, An Act Concerning Unsubstantiated Allegations of Abuse or Neglect by School Employees. The bill would require that, when a DCF investigation finds that an allegation against an educator is unsubstantiated, records about the allegation be expunged no more than five days after the completion of the investigation. Read more

Teachers and Voters Sound the Alarm on Excessive Testing

CEA President Sheila Cohen addressed reporters at a news conference today at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

CEA President Sheila Cohen addressed reporters at a news conference today at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

Voters—fed up with Connecticut burdening students with too much testing—want their state legislators to take action. At a news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford today, CEA revealed a new, balanced approach that improves accountability, reduces testing by phasing out SBAC, and can serve as a foundation for legislation this year.

CEA President Sheila Cohen said, “We have conducted the first state poll this year on testing. The new survey* indicates that Connecticut voters say public school students are required to take too many standardized tests and spend too much class time preparing for these tests. Voters want our public schools to rely more on classroom-based instruction and performance measures and focus less on testing.”

“A child is more than a test score,” Cohen said, “and the time is now for the Connecticut General Assembly to act by phasing out SBAC and turning to a progress test already in use in Connecticut classrooms. This change would benefit students by 1) eliminating unnecessary, duplicative testing; 2) enabling Connecticut to meet federal and state accountability requirements; and, 3) restoring precious instructional time to help all children learn at high levels by engaging them with creative, innovative, and personalized class work.” Read more

Courant Featuring Unsung Heroes: Nominate Someone You Know

The Hartford Courant is featuring unsung Connecticut heroes and the paper wants your nominations. According to The Courant, hometown heroes are “the people who rarely grab the spotlight, but who change lives for the better with hard work, compassion, and insight.”

Chances are, you know many teachers and other people who are extremely dedicated to their communities and receive little or no recognition. Find out more, and nominate a friend or colleague here.

Read about the educators the paper has already featured here.

Yes, Union Decline Affects Everyone

labor unionIn today’s issue of The New York Times, columnist admits something too few are willing to say — “I was wrong,” he writes. Wrong, it turns out, about the importance of unions and the effect they have overall on the economy and the lives of the middle class.

Kristof says he used to be wary of unions, thinking they hampered economic growth. But after looking at study after study, he’s come to realize that the facts show the opposite: Unions have been an important force for economic growth and equality.

He writes,

Most studies suggest that about one-fifth of the increase in economic inequality in America among men in recent decades is the result of the decline in unions. It may be more: A study in the American Sociological Review, using the broadest methodology, estimates that the decline of unions may account for one-third of the rise of inequality among men.

Read the complete column here.

Here’s to more Americans coming to the same realization as Kristoff, and working to strengthen the labor movement so that more of us can have access to a living wage and a chance at the American dream.

Remembering Our Favorite Teachers

Photo by  Apfelherz via Flickr.

Photo by Apfelherz via Flickr.

Sometimes the many everyday responsibilities that come with being an educator can make for a tunnel-like focus on the long list of items that need to be done today. That’s why adults’ reminiscences about teachers who influenced their lives in profound ways can be such a great reminder about why we do what we do.

NPR recently invited listeners to contribute online their own tales of great teachers. They make for a very heartwarming read.

One woman named Sally remembered her high school French teacher who taught so much more than vocabulary and grammar.

Many years later, I remember best the mood he created in the classroom, a mood of yearning for the knowledge that will unlock doors to understanding and sharing, a sense that every homework assignment or new poem memorized could link us as human beings more deeply; I also remember most of my French.

Touched to the core by this teacher’s warm, kind, and deeply human example, I am now myself in my third year of Peace Corps service in Ethiopia.

Read more from NPR here and here.

Was there one special teacher who inspired you to become an educator? Share your story in the comments.

Tell Congress to Get NCLB Re-Write Right

NCLB ESEA rewriteCongress is working on a re-write to No Child Left Behind (NCLB) — the current iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Educators know firsthand how important it is that a new version of the law allows students to learn rather than focus on high-stakes standardized tests.

This is an important moment for American education. As educators we must make sure Congress gets new legislation right.

  1. Sign an NEA petition to share a new vision for public education and show Congress that educators and voters are paying attention.
  2. Contact your members of Congress and tell them that ESEA must promote opportunity for all and time to learn. Call 866-331-7233 or email your representatives and ask them to focus on three core goals.
  • Create a new generation accountability system that includes an “opportunity dashboard” to ensure all students receive a quality education.
  • Reduce the amount of mandated standardized testing, and allow more time for students to learn and more time for teachers to teach.
  • Ensure every student has a qualified educator who is empowered to lead.

Resources to Support Educator Evaluation Committees

Professional Development and Evaluation Committees (PDEC) are beginning to review and revise teacher evaluation plans for next year, and CEA is offering resources to support the committees in their work.

New resources available at CEA.org are as follows.

  1. Teacher Evaluation Plan Review and Revision: What should your PDEC do?  This PowerPoint presentation outlines five basic steps for PDECs to use when reviewing their plans. It will help committees discover what’s working well, what’s challenging, and how the plan aligns with the evaluation guidelines’ requirements.
  2.  Teacher Evaluation Plan Review and Revision: What should your PDEC discuss? This section of the website contains several documents pertaining to specific evaluation components and processes for the PDEC to discuss.

Find these documents and more on the CEA website here.

Meditation Programs Show Promise for Schools

Teachers are being asked to fit more and more into the school day, but studies are showing that a single-minded focus on academics isn’t necessarily the best way to improve student learning and well-being. According to Time, schools that have experimented with mindfulness or meditation programs are seeing positive results.

Some of the studies Time cites found the following.

  • Third-graders who took part in an eight-week mindfulness program experienced fewer ADHD symptoms and less hyperactivity.
  • After nine mindfulness lessons, 12- to 16-year-olds experienced lower depression scores, less stress, and better well-being compared with students who did not take part in the program.
  • Forty-one percent of middle school students who meditated gained at least one math level on a state standardized test.

Has your school implemented a mindfulness or meditation program? If so, please share your experience in the comments.

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