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The State of Bilingual Education in Connecticut

studentsIf state policymakers needed even more reasons to implement programs to bolster the performance of English Language Learners, they heard plenty this morning on WNPR. For starters, panel members on “Where We Live” pointed out that the four-year high school graduation rate for English language learners is only 60 percent compared to a rate of 83 percent for students proficient in English.

Host John Dankosky noted that the number of English language learners in Connecticut schools has increased by 50 percent over the last 10 years, yet there are now fewer certified bilingual teachers than there were 10 years ago. Most English language learners are concentrated in the state’s urban districts, yet smaller districts are also seeing an increase in this population of students.
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Nominations Open for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics & Science Teaching

Would you or a colleague like to be recognized for your outstanding contributions as a teacher of math or science? Since 1983, more than 4,300 teachers have been recognized for their contributions in the classroom and to their profession.

You and/or your colleagues can be part of this year’s presidential awards. Visit the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics & Science Teaching website to find out how.

Eligible teachers must have completed five years of K-12 teaching prior to this year and currently be teaching science (including computer science) or mathematics in grades 7-12. Applications are due by May 1, 2015.

Connecticut Commissioner of Education Heading to New Post in Rhode Island

Rhode Island Governor-elect Gina Raimondo has announced that she will nominate outgoing Connecticut Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor to serve as Rhode Island’s secretary of commerce. Read more from The CT Mirror here. Read a statement from Connecticut State Board of Education Chair Allan Taylor here.

Districts Look to Culinary School Grads to Improve School Lunch Sales

lunchFor many students school lunch is a basic, no-frills meal, but some districts are looking to change that. To combat a decline in the number of students purchasing school lunch, some districts are turning to professionally trained chefs, according to The Wall Street Journal.

New federal nutrition standards require that schools serve more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — and some students haven’t appreciated the menu change. Since the new standards went into effect two years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported the largest decline in students participating in the school lunch program of the last 30 years.

‘Once you move from chicken nuggets to roast chicken, somebody needs to know how to cook,’ said Ann Cooper, director of food services for the Boulder Valley School District in Colorado. The number of districts employing professionally trained cooks has ‘gone from virtually none to dozens, if not hundreds, in a decade.’

Read the entire article here.

Winter Lesson Plans and Resources

The official start to the season may still be over a week away, but it already feels wintry here in Connecticut. See below for some winter-themed lessons, activities, and resources.

These resources from NEA will help students develop an understanding of the mechanisms that bring about seasonal change and how animals have adapted to them.

Also check out winter project ideas on Pinterest.

Keeping Your Classroom Germ Free

It’s that time of year: Students are sniffling and sneezing — hopefully into their elbows — everywhere you turn. How do you keep from getting sick and reduce the number of children who pick up the virus of the week?

Pennsylvania teacher Lynn Cashell has the following tips.

I keep a pump bottle of hand sanitizer next to every computer, so students may use it before they begin working. I also keep a bottle next to every box of tissues and remind the kids to use it after blowing their noses. I do encourage hand washing as well, but the convenience of the sanitizer works well.

While our housekeeping staff wipes down the desks weekly, I hand out Lysol or Clorox wipes every Friday, so the kids can clean their desks. They actually love it and are always surprised at how dirty they become. The wipes are conveniently located under my sink, so kids often take it upon themselves to do some cleaning.

One thing I do to protect myself is to always use my own pen or pencil when revising and editing with my students. Those of you who teach elementary school know just where your students’ pencils — not mention their little hands — usually end up!

Read additional suggestions for keeping germs at bay from Scholastic, and find resources for teaching youngsters about cleanliness and disease prevention from TeacherVision.

State Receives Federal Dollars to Expand Pre-K

Connecticut is another step further along the path toward universal preschool thanks to a grant from the federal government. The state has been awarded $12.5 million toward expanding high-quality preschool programs in targeted communities next year.

Policymakers are increasingly recognizing the importance of high-quality pre-K. Last spring state lawmakers approved legislation to create more than 1,000 additional state-subsidized preschool seats, and they plan to continue adding additional seats over the next four years.

Towns that the state has identified to receive additional preschool slots through the federal grant are Bridgeport, Derby, East Haven, Griswold, Groton, Hamden, Hebron, Killingly, Manchester, Naugatuck, Seymour, Torrington, Vernon and Wolcott.

Read more about the federal grant from The CT Mirror.

Important Clarification on Reading Survey for K-3 Teachers

CEA and AFT-Connecticut have worked with the State Department of Education (SDE) to successfully resolve issues regarding the reading survey required by the state legislature in Section 13 of Public Act 13-245. K-3 teachers are now required to take the survey, which has already been delayed to allow for clarification, in 2015 during one of two administration windows.

CEA, AFT-Connecticut, and the SDE have come to agreement that survey results:

  • will not affect an individual teacher’s summative evaluation;
  • will not affect an individual teacher’s certification;
  • will be administered at no cost to the individual;
  • will ensure the anonymity of the individual; and,
  • will be used to drive professional development and student instruction.

There is more important information in the circular letter the SDE distributed to superintendents — please click here to read it.

Take Action for Healthy School Food

Share your successes and challenges with healthy school foods for a chance to win a nutrition grant for your school. NEA’s Health Information Network wants to hear from educators, students, and families for a national contest titled “The Smart Snacks Roundup.”

Since the USDA Smart Snacks regulations went into effect last summer, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains have been added to public school menus across the nation. The contest will create an online forum where schools can share “best practices” for implementing the new regulations.

Contest participants must submit a creative photo, video, or narrative describing how their school has implemented Smart Snacks.

Find out more here.




Final Decision on Master’s Degree Requirements Postponed Until February

CEA Policy Director Linette Branham told the State Board of Education that

CEA Policy Director Linette Branham told the State Board of Education that CEA cannot support the master’s degree proposal as it stands.

Though the State Board of Education (SBE) gave initial approval to changes to the master’s degree requirement impacting professional level certification at its meeting yesterday, the final decision about what constitutes an “appropriate subject area master’s related to a teacher’s certification endorsement” won’t be made until the SBE meets in February. A small group of education stakeholders will meet in the interim to iron out important issues that still need clarification before changes go into effect.

Linette Branham, CEA director of policy, practices, research, and reform, told the SBE that CEA was part of the initial, but not final, feedback group regarding the new master’s degree proposal and has always had concerns about the interpretation of the statutory requirement included in the 2012 Education Reform Bill. Read more


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