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Posts tagged ‘a view from the classroom’

Testing Takes Center Stage at State Board of Education Meeting

 Testing Takes Center Stage at State Board of Education Meeting by Laurel Killough on February 5, 2015 The State Board of Education heard updates about SBAC and the state's No Child Left Behind waiver at its meeting yesterday. The State Board of Education heard updates about SBAC and the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver at its meeting yesterday.

The State Board of Education heard updates about SBAC and the state’s No Child Left Behind waiver at its meeting yesterday.

The first administration of SBAC that will yield student and school level results is coming soon, and State Department of Education (SDE) Officials say they think districts are ready, but they’re not so sure about parents. “I stay up at night worrying about how to prepare people for this,” said Chief Academic Officer Ellen Cohn.

Cohn said that the Smarter Balanced Assessments (SBAC) mark a significant shift for schools, and that districts continue to need support. “This is like leaving JV and going to varsity — these are different assessments,” she said.

The SDE is working on materials, including brochures and web resources, to help parents understand that students’ results may differ from what they’ve come to expect on the CMT and CAPT.

“One of the pieces of information that’s not been well broadcast is the level of engagement our office has had in the development of the test,” said Gail Pagano, an education consultant for the SDE and the state’s SBAC lead. “Nine members worked over four years to develop the test. I’ve had a lot of input in math items.”

Pagano added, “People from other states in the [SBAC] consortium say that this is more Connecticut’s test than any other state’s test.” Read more

A Valid Alternative to Senate Bill 24

CEA continues to encourage people to read the teachers’ reform plan, A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement, developed by a cross-section of teachers with expertise in the classroom. It’s a commonsense, research-based alternative to the governor’s proposed bill, with proven ideas that work.

CEA and its members know that Connecticut needs to reform its statutory dismissal process,  including the mistaken notion that tenure means a “job for life.” It is as misunderstood as it is outdated.

It is time to end teacher tenure as we know it, while ensuring jobs are not threatened for petty personal or political reasons that have nothing to do with classroom effectiveness. It is time for Connecticut to reform the dismissal process so that it is speedy, more cost-effective, and fair.

The plan calls for

  • Shortening, by a third, the time it takes to carry out the dismissal process by reducing the statutory timeline from 120 days to 85 days and make other changes that could reduce the timeline even further.
  • Reducing the hearing cost by requiring one arbitrator versus the current system that allows up to three arbitrators, each billing for multiple daily charges.
  • Protecting against unfair firings by providing a speedy hearing in front of a single neutral third party.

Teachers ideas are in sharp contrast to positions being advanced by some other groups. Watch a clip from a news conference yesterday below.

You can find a list of members of the legislature’s education committee here. If your legislator is a member of the education committee, call or send an email and let him/her know what will really work to improve the quality of our public schools.

New London Day: Don’t Scapegoat Teachers

The New London Day ran an editorial yesterday about CEA’s reform plan, A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement.

Don’t scapegoat teachers

By Paul Choiniere

Publication: The Day

Published 01/29/2012 12:00 AM

If there is one thing that gets Mary Loftus Levine steamed it’s the perception that most of the problems with the Connecticut education system, and with American public education generally, can be attributed to bad teachers.

“Teachers are facing demonization,” Levine told me when we recently sat down. “It’s not fair, it’s not accurate and it’s not going to fix the real problems.”

Levine is a lifelong teacher herself and currently the executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the state with about 43,000 members.

Before dismissing Levine’s comments as the actions of a union boss out to protect the membership, consider the recent proposal put forth by the CEA. It would streamline the process for dismissing ineffective teachers. The proposals the union offers would shorten by a third the dismissal process, from 120 days to about 85. It calls for one arbitrator instead of the current costly and cumbersome three.

But the union also wants to assure school systems have clear and consistent evaluation policies, which take into account multiple indicators of academic growth, not just test scores. They want plans in place to help underperforming teachers improve. And they want to assure teachers have adequate protection from retaliation because of personal or political reasons.

Has tenure and complicated dismissal procedures protected poor performing teachers? Absolutely. Do the proposals put forth by CEA go far enough in making sure bad teachers can be rooted out? Maybe not, but they certainly appear to be a good-faith effort to start a discussion about fair and effective methods for assuring teacher accountability.

I’d have to agree with Levine that it is a mistake to scapegoat teachers as the cause of what ails our education system, particularly in Connecticut, where the gap in educational achievement between urban students and their suburban counterparts is so massive.

Simply blaming teachers lets parents who do not make education a priority in the home off easy. It masks the reality that children growing up in wealthier suburban towns begin their educational journey in kindergarten so much better prepared than kids in the cities and in some poor, rural communities. Saying it’s the teachers fault ignores the lack of discipline and respect from students that those teachers often have to deal with; values that can only be successfully engrained if reinforced in the home.

The challenges facing our public education system are myriad, the difficulty of rooting out poor teachers among them. But it’s hardly the biggest problem, not even close.

Still Time to Sign Up for a Reforum

Veteran Guilford teacher Pete Cuticelli (left) proved himself to be a strong mentor in teacher advocacy when he encouraged his colleague third-year teacher Burt Vitale to join him at a reforum.

CEA members are packing hotel conference rooms across the state as they participate in reforums that give them opportunities to learn, talk, and plan for their legislative advocacy roles in the “Year of Education.” There are four more reforums scheduled for this week and next, so if you haven’t attended one yet, sign up now.

Veteran Guilford teacher Pete Cuticelli, a building representative, encouraged his colleague, Burt Vitale, a third-year teacher, to join him at the Middletown Reforum yesterday.  Vitale said, “It’s important that young people get involved with the issues if they want to stay in the teaching profession.”

East Haddam teacher Susan DeBisschop (right) and Old Saybrook teacher Margaret Samela review the reforms outlined in the CEA plan, "A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement", as they shared ideas at the reforum held in Middletown.

Cuticelli said he’s impressed that CEA’s been “proactive” with its reform agenda.  Susan DeBisschop, an East Haddam teacher, said her intent is to carry a “positive message forward.”

In total, CEA is hosting eleven reforums for teachers to hear an overview from CEA staff on statewide issues, participate in discussions, and carve out strategies for keeping their views percolating on the legislative front burner.

“Sure, I will continue to to email, call, and reach out to my legislators,” said Margaret Samela, an Old Saybrook teacher.  “I don’t think teachers get the respect they deserve.  CEA’s book, A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement, is a positive step.  It’s a way for us to come together as a collaborative voice and share our concerns about where our profession should be headed.”

Two Bridgeport teachers saw the reforum as such a vital opportunity that they are considering attending two of the gatherings.  Daniel Kwet and Jason Poppa say they have many concerns.  Just one was succinctly expressed by Kwet this way, “It’s just drill and kill at Harding High School where I teach.  The curriculum has been so narrowed.”

Helping Students Succeed by Listening to Teachers

On January 3, CEA released an education plan that includes reforming the teacher evaluation process and replacing tenure with a streamlined dismissal process for underperforming teachers.

At a news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CEA shared A View from the Classroom: Proven Ideas for Student Achievement — a comprehensive education reform plan developed by teachers.

“There’s no greater asset to improving our public schools than teachers. Teachers are in the classroom every day; they know what is needed to prepare students for the economic challenges ahead. We are proposing specific ideas that can make a real difference to improve education for Connecticut students,” said CEA President Phil Apruzzese.

CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine said, “We cannot build a strong local economy in Connecticut unless we have high quality education, and we cannot have high-quality schools without adequate funding, small class sizes, and involvement of parents and communities to transform local schools that need help.”

She continued, “Teachers will do their part — we propose creating an evaluation system for teachers that uses multiple indicators of quality teaching, and we propose developing a streamlined dismissal process to remove underperforming teachers.” The plan also includes far-reaching proposals such as creating partnerships among communities, parents, teachers, and students to transform chronically low-performing schools with methods tailored to each school; requiring schools to provide health and social service supports to disadvantaged youngsters.

Apruzzese said, “Teachers lead classrooms, and our voice is necessary to ensure meaningful education reform. We want to create the conditions to make teaching a respected, supported profession. We look forward to engaging in a positive, collaborative dialogue with lawmakers, parents and everyone who’s interested in improving the quality of our public schools and preparing our students for tomorrow’s challenges.”

The CEA news conference was held two days in advance of Governor Malloy’s statewide forum on education reform at Central Connecticut State University that included education leaders from around the nation and state.