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Education: A focal point in first gubernatorial debate

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Tom Foley spent more than 15 minutes talking about education in their first gubernatorial debate last night at the Norwich Free Academy.

When asked about his tenure comment, Malloy apologized to teachers: “I shouldn’t have said it. I apologize for saying it.”

Watch the debate on CT-N at

The education discussion begins almost 24 minutes into the video.debate pic

Malloy’s apology is nearly 31 minutes into the video.

Here’s a sampling of the media coverage of the debate:

CT Mirror

The Day

CT News Junkie

The Hartford Courant,0,7507329.story

The New Haven Register

The Bulletin

The Connecticut Post

Words to live by

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Berlin High School English teacher Christine Briganti prepared her new classroom for students.

Berlin high school students are being greeted by their teachers in new classrooms today, part of the high school’s $70 million, multi-year renovation.

Teachers, including Christine Briganti, have been working for the past week to prepare their classrooms for students.

Briganti, a second year English teacher, said she’s very excited about the new classrooms. “After undergoing a year of renovation, the new English wing is complete and gorgeous,” she said.

Briganti shared this advice to teachers entering the classroom for the first time:

“As a first year teacher, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the newness of everything going on around you. Although it’s important to expect the unexpected, also remember to take chances and have fun—that will result in the best learning for your students and yourself.”

How’s that for some words to live by.

Students, teachers, and school districts benefit from computer science professional development


Sixteen teachers from across the state participated in a Mobile Computer Science Principles professional development course at Trinity College this summer.

Sixteen teachers from across the state gave up the majority of their summer to learn something new to enhance their teaching skills for themselves and for their students. They participated in a six-week class to better understand mobile computer science principles and build apps.

The teachers participated in the Summer Mobile Computer Science Principles professional development course at Trinity College in Hartford.

The program, funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the Connecticut Computer Science Teachers Association (CT CSTA), improves the computer science skills of teachers, who then deliver their expertise, experiences, and skills to students throughout Connecticut’s school districts.

“With the growing importance of computing in society, there is a huge need for students to understand the fundamentals of computer science and for teachers to have the continued professional development and resources needed to teach in this constantly changing field,” said Chinma Uche, president of CT CSTA.

Uche says the highest paying jobs are going to students with computer skills, and the nation needs to invest in technology education.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be more than nine million jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics by the year 2020. Half of those jobs, will be in computing with an average annual salary of $76,000.
Learning new skills
Bridgeport teacher Laura Grover said the professional development program was “awesome.” She especially liked that it was taught by a college professor who worked with the teachers on developing each lesson plan.

“It gave us a well-rounded view of computer science and how things work, why they work, and how to make them work. We will bring that all back to our students and help them learn.”

The teachers spent 40 hours per week in classrooms learning to build socially useful mobile apps and increased their computer skills—learning everything from coding to sorting. In its second year, the program instructs educators to teach lessons on building mobile apps by using computer science principles.


Manchester teachers Matthew Meisterling and Chase Solarz displayed the app they created called “MHS, Go Quiz Yourself!”

Manchester High School teachers Matthew Meisterling and Chase Solarz built an app called “MHS, Go Quiz Yourself!” designed to help students understand their school culture by taking fun daily quizzes that improve their knowledge of teachers, school history, and more.

Computer science principles encompass a wide range of skills including emphasis on writing, collaboration, and creativity. The teachers say working with computers is fun for students, and it can help students excel in other areas.

“Building apps and computer games all require math, physics, and writing skills, so if we get students involved and interested in computer science, they will pay more attention and do well in their other classes—because they will realize they need the skills,” said Solarz.

Meisterling added, “We can use the fun and games to get the students motivated and engaged in the project. Then they learn without realizing it.”


Westbrook teacher Susan McManus (left), and Bridgeport teacher Laura Grover (right), created an app designed to keep parents and students informed about school activities.

Grover and Westbrook teacher Susan McManus created the “My School” app, designed to keep both parents and students informed about school activities, programs and events.

“It’s a fun way to get students’ attention,” said McManus, “while teaching them a wide-variety of skills.”

“There’s hands-on teaching, problem solving skills, teamwork, and math and logic components that all help the students get a well-rounded experience,” said Grover.

Across the country, too few students have the opportunity to take engaging and rigorous computer science classes, and there is little diversity among those who do. Rachel Martinich, a teacher at Jonathan Law High School in Milford, said this program can help change that.

“We can use what we’ve learned to teach students about programing and coding and show them that they are accessible to everyone. We need to debunk the stereotype that the computer science field is only for white males. Our training and new skills will help us get more girls and minorities interested in computers.”

Solarz agreed, “Computer science and technology are the future of our society, and we are all becoming increasingly more dependent upon them. So either we understand them and become part of our new world, or just be a user and not understand. Our training can help us teach our students to embrace it.” Read more

Join colleagues in a history-making march in New York City

From Connecticut to California, we’ve all been experiencing the effects of what many experts are calling a climate crisis—from the historic brush fires out west to the flooding across the entire country to the coldest summer on record—and the list goes on. climate change square

With our future on the line, now is the time to take action.

Join CEA September 21 in New York City, for the People’s Climate March for Change. The march is one of hundreds of coordinated actions taking place that day around the world to draw attention to demand action on climate change.

The march is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of people to New York before the landmark UN summit, where world leaders, including President Obama, will be discussing the climate crisis and what must be done to protect our future.

The CEA Board of Directors voted to join other unions in support of the People’s Climate March and is calling on Connecticut teachers to join in support by marching on September 21. More than 750 businesses, unions, religious organizations, schools, social justice and environmental groups are all working together and taking a stand to bend the course of history.

Don’t be left out of this historic event. Mobilize, march, and make history by joining your colleagues from across Connecticut and the country.

Click here to sign up for the People’s Climate March on September 21.

Email Jeff Leake or Conor Casey to join the contingent of CEA members participating in the march.

For more information, visit or, and find out how you can make a difference.

Top 10 list: How to make this your best year yet

Most Connecticut students and teachers will be back in the classroom in the next few days. As you prepare for another school year, check out these tips from educators—from managing your time to reducing stress—on how to make the 2014-2015 school year your best yet.

top-10-listHere’s the top 10 list.

1- Find more time
2- Build better lessons
3- Create calm in your classroom
4- Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate
5- Stress less
6- Toot your own horn
7- Educate the whole child
8- Stay on top of tech
9- Advocate for public education
10- Become a lifelong learner

Teachers from across the country share their secrets, tips, and strategies in more detail in the NEA Today story, Make This Your Best Year Yet!

Teacher Appointed to the State Board of Education

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Teacher Erin Benham has been appointed to the State Board of Education.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy today appointed teacher Erin Benham to serve as a member on the Connecticut State Board of Education.
Click here to read the news release.

CEA President Sheila Cohen issued this statement on today’s appointment:

We are gratified that teacher Erin Benham has been appointed to the State Board of Education, and we are certain that she will advocate for the high quality public education that our students need, deserve, and expect in the State of Connecticut.

Teachers need to be at the center, not the periphery, of setting policy and planning implementation. Policymakers on the State Board of Education will now have the advantage of a new colleague who is a teaching professional and who has direct classroom knowledge and expertise about what works and what does not work well in our public school classrooms.

We are confident that Erin will promote vigorous dialogue on pressing issues such as high-stakes testing, age and grade-level appropriate learning standards, adequate resources, and high-quality teacher evaluation and professional development. We join parents and students in applauding this appointment by Governor Malloy because we know that a classroom teacher will provide the experience, wisdom and strength the state board requires in this time of change.


New Poll: Parents Want an End to High-Stakes Testing

There has been a lot of research recently, clearly conveying what teachers have been saying about the effects of high-stakes testing on children—about the problems associated with our country’s focus on testing, not teaching. test pencil

Now a new poll shows that parents want to end high-stakes testing across the country. The 2014 PDK/Gallup Annual Survey on the Public’s Attitude Toward Public Schools, released on today, finds that an overwhelming majority of parents (68 percent) do not believe that standardized tests help teachers know what to teach.

The parents agree with educators that we need to sharply reduce the amount of student and instructional time consumed by tests.

The study also finds that more parents oppose using student standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. Opposition to this policy has grown from 47 percent in 2012 to 61 percent this year.

Other key findings in the poll:
• 32 percent say lack of financial support is the No. 1 challenge facing public schools. Concerns about standards and discipline problems each received 9 percent.
• 50 percent of Americans give the schools in their communities either an A or B, with parents awarding local schools even higher marks.

The new poll echoes concerns and efforts by teachers across the county, calling for an end to anti-toxic testing measures. The National Education Association is putting the strength of its 3 million members to call for governmental oversight of the powerful testing industry and an end to the overuse of standardized testing across the country. Read: NEA launches campaign to end toxic-testing.
Read NEA Today story– Poll: Parents Want an End to the Testing Obsession

Pryor Justifies his Record at Annual Back-to-School Meeting

One day after announcing he wouldn’t seek a second term, State Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor defended his record, acknowledging there have been necessary revisions and much anxiety about his sweeping education changes.

Pryor told educators at the annual back-to-school meeting, “Let’s not settle for good enough when true excellence is needed. You are on the right track….you are getting the job done.”

Pryor pointed to student progress on NAEP, saying it can be characterized as a “thunderous clap of achievement.”

Regarding the overhaul of teacher evaluation, Pryor said, while the process has had its ups and downs and teachers felt it was a “gotcha game,” the revisions “have been very well justified,” adding that professional dialogue has been elevated with local ideas in local school districts.

Responding to concerns about the overreliance on testing, the department released information about a new program that will provide support to all districts for decreasing time used for assessment. In partnership with Achieve, the state piloted the program in eight districts last year to help them judge the alignment of assessment tools and practices, and decrease the number and reduce the reliance on assessments.

Pryor said, “ Together, we believe we can expand instructional time…do more instruction and less testing.”  Click here for more information.

Read more

State Teachers’ Retirement System Posts Impressive Investment Return

State Treasurer Denise Nappier recently announced that the State Teachers’ Retirement Fund realized an investment return of 15.67 percent. That exceeded the actuarial investment assumption of 8.5 percent. Nappier also noted that the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, which includes the State Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement Fund, and 13 other funds, added $4.15 billion of investment gains to pension assets in fiscal year 2014. After net withdrawals, the fund ended the fiscal year with assets of $29.4 billion — a $3.5 billion net increase from the previous year.

“What is noteworthy about our investment experience over the past five years is that pension fund assets have grown at a faster pace than the payment of benefits and other expenses,” Nappier said. “In light of the State’s significant unfunded pension liability, the substantial growth of the fund assets is good news for its beneficiaries and taxpayers.”

The State Teachers’ Retirement Board’s actuary is in the process of preparing the valuation report which provides an updated assessment of the unfunded liability every other year. The report is expected to be presented to the Retirement Board at its November meeting.

Read the press release from the State Treasurer’s office.


YOU. There’s no substitute.

Teachers excel at building relationships and acting as champions for kids. Both are irreplaceable when it comes to quality teaching and learning–a fact that corporate reformers keep ignoring. “Teaching is not a business” is a must-read commentary this Sunday morning.









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