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Posts tagged ‘CommPACT’

Support for Community Schools Threatened in State Budget Proposal

Joselyn Ault

CommPACT’s Family and Community Engagement Specialist Jocelyn Ault and West Side Middle School parent volunteer Heather Greene, with her daughter Abigail, prepare to testify before the Appropriations Committee.

Community Schools in Connecticut have had important successes improving student achievement, enhancing parent-school relationships, and providing much needed community supports in some of our neediest districts. These achievements are all at risk due to a funding cut in the governor’s proposed budget.

Parents, educators, and community engagement experts spoke out yesterday at a hearing of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee against the governor’s proposed elimination of funding to the CommPACT Community Schools Collaborative, highlighting the importance of the program.

“We cannot expect that our classroom teachers can in seven, or even nine hours a day, for 180 or so days, carry all the burden of remediating language barriers, trauma, learning disabilities, food insecurity, lack of sleep, and all of the other areas that impact learning in their classroom. We have to create support systems through our families and caregivers,” Jocelyn Ault, CommPACT’s Family and Community Engagement Specialist, told legislators.
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Increasing Community Involvement Focus of New Program in East Hartford

Literacy Coach and

Literacy coach and Family Engagement Committee Co-Chair Kara Levenduski speaks to school community members at the launch of the CommPACT Collaborative at O’Brien School in East Hartford.

Effectively engaging parents and community members is a challenge for many schools, but it’s one that Robert J. O’Brien STEM Academy in East Hartford is eager to take on. Thanks to a new program in place this year, the school is reaching out to families to find out what they want from the school community and provide them with new resources and services.

O’Brien, an elementary school with a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) focus for grades four to six, was named a Network School this year. One goal the school has chosen to work on as part of its Network plan is increasing family and community engagement.

To help achieve that goal, the school has chosen to join the CommPACT Community Schools Collaborative. CommPACT — which stands for Community, Parents, Administrators, Children, and Teachers — provides resources, materials, and technical assistance to guide the establishment of community schools. Read more

Education Commissioner Impressed With CommPACT Success

The Commissioner of Education heard about the changes and growth at Bassick High in Bridgeport, a CommPACT school, today.

“I see a spirit of collaboration, achievement and possibilities,” said State Department of Education Commissioner Stefan Pryor during his visit to Bassick High School in Bridgeport today, where he saw innovative school reform in action.

Bassick, is a CommPACT school. The CommPACT model, which stands for Community, Parents, Administrators, Children, and Teachers, is implemented within the local public school system and is having much success.

“I am very pleased with the CAPT score growth,” said Pryor. “It’s the right trend and what’s happened is incredible progress.”

During his two-hour visit, Pryor toured the school, visited classrooms and participated in a round-table discussion, where he heard about the school’s successes from students, parents and teachers.

Jim Shannon, who has worked in the school system for 42 years and is now a climate specialist, says he’s proud to be part of CommPACT.

“The change we’ve seen is systemic,” he said. “While no school is perfect, Bassick has its perfect moments.”

Teachers talked about the impressive academic improvements throughout the school and the increased parental and community involvement.

“All of us have seen growth in our classrooms,” said English teacher Walter Brackett. “I am so glad we got CommPACT at Bassick.  I am so much more enthusiastic and hopeful since we implemented it.”

Parents said they were concerned at first, but are pleased with what’s happening at Bassick.

“Change is good. It’s working and the future looks great,” said Dan Comeau, the father of twins and a newly elected member of the school’s governance council.

Toy Levy is a Bassick senior who helped give the commissioner the tour of the school. She told him that all the bad things people say about Bassick aren’t true. “Bassick is the finest urban high school in Connecticut,” she said.

Pryor said he hopes to return to Bassick for updates on the school’s continuous progress.

U.S. Senator Takes a Lesson in School Reform

What school reform model has no student lotteries and doesn’t require youngsters to leave their neighborhood schools?  U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal may not have known the answer prior to a visit to Waterbury last week.  Now he knows the answer (CommPACT Schools) and much more!

Senator Blumenthal listens to CEA Policy Director Mary Loftus Levine at a CommPACT roundtable in Waterbury.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal visited Washington Elementary School in Waterbury. “I was very excited and impressed with the CommPACT model, and the enthusiasm and engagement of the teachers and parents working together and collaborating,” he said after a roundtable discussion at the school.

The Connecticut Education Association invited Blumenthal to the session that included representatives from Washington and West Side Middle Schools, Waterbury’s two CommPACT schools.

CommPACT involves a partnership of Community, Parents, Administrators, Children, and Teachers who share in school  decision making. Experts from the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education help too with expertise and technical planning.

Senator Blumenthal visits a classroom at Waterbury's Washington Elementary School.

At the outset, Blumenthal told the group that he made the visit to listen and learn, and that he was looking for models that could be used to improve education in the state. Those seated around the table took every opportunity to explain the CommPACT education model to their visitor from Washington.

Allysa Lombardo, a third-grade teacher at Washington School, said that before CommPACT arrived the teachers had little input into how the school was run. Now it’s just the opposite with the principal getting and needing input from teachers and parents.

Donna Vignali, president of the Waterbury Teachers Association, said, “Teachers are on the front lines and they know what has to be done. Research shows that when you work together, parents and community leaders too, wonderful things happen.”

Allysa Lombardo, a third grade teacher at Washington Elementary, explains to Senator Blumenthal why she has embraced the CommPACT model.

Jassie Meyers, a parent liaison from West Side Middle School, said she has six children, four who have passed through the school and two who will be attending it.

“So I have a vested interest,” she said. “I love CommPACT and West Side. When I started it was not welcoming to parents but CommPACT has changed that. After its first year, I thought something was wrong. People were smiling. They couldn’t wait for school to start again. That shows CommPACT is working and I hope they do it all around the U.S. because parents have a voice.”

CommPACT facilitator Marianne Lusk, right, describes to Senator Blumenthal what goes on at a CommPACT school. CommPACT Director Michele Femc-Bagwell (in jacket) and Washington Principal Roxanne Augelli listen.

Marianne Lusk, who is a speech and language pathologist at Washington and the school’s CommPACT coach, said she has been at the school for 14 years and the transformation that has taken place since the CommPACT model was introduced three years ago is unbelievable. Washington teachers, working on their own time and with help from UConn, use data and have undergone professional development so that they can work together in groups called cadres to make the school better in their fields of expertise, such as math, science or behavior, she said.

Also speaking from the audience was Heather Greene, whose daughter had attended a magnet school but is now at West Side Middle School. “At first I was worried about West Side,” she said, “but I love the staff. I would not want my daughter at any other school.”

Governor’s Budget Continues to Disappoint

Governor M. Jodi Rell talked much about the economy and job creation in her annual State of the State today, but offered few specifics. Public education, a critical element in putting the state’s economy on a strong footing, got short shrift.

For the second year in a row, the governor proposed eliminating a highly visible, research-based school reform model for improving urban public schools (CommPACT Schools). While not providing even one dollar more in state education aid for municipalities, the governor’s budget adds $5 million more in funding for charter schools and $25 million more for magnet schools.

“We are dumbfounded that the governor has turned her back on the CommPACT Schools initiative,” says CEA President Phil Apruzzese. “Stakeholders from superintendents to parents, schools administrators, and teachers came together to support this effort to close the achievement gap in Connecticut schools. Our effort has received national attention. If Governor Rell gets her way, years of work will be placed in jeopardy.”

In distinguishing between CommPACT Schools and charter schools, Apruzzese went on to say that “the CommPACT Schools initiative seeks to turn around schools that are having difficulty. It works with existing teachers and administrators in a structured process of change. Charter schools, on the other hand, always have to start with a new group of students, a new faculty, and a new administration.”

Adds Apruzzese, “The real challenge we face in closing the achievement gap is to improve results in schools where there are problems. If we don’t attempt to do that, we’re not being serious. The governor’s failure to fund this effort makes no sense.”
The CommPACT Schools initiative – which was launched in 2008 – has attracted corporate and foundation financial support from AT&T, Balfour, the NEA Foundation, and others that will disappear if the governor’s proposed budget cut is adopted or public support is reduced.

Another major disappointment in the governor’s budget is that it maintains the same level of funding for the Education Cost Sharing (ECS) grant in fiscal year 2010-2011 as in FY 2009-2010. State aid for this education grant was reduced by 14 percent in last year’s budget and backfilled with federal stimulus dollars.

Says Apruzzese, “The governor is continuing the troubling budget sleight of hand that she started last year with the short-term federal stimulus money. She is setting local schools up for a whopping $270 million hole in ECS funding when the federal funds dry up in 2011.”

In addition, holding ECS grants to last year’s level does not even allow local school districts to deal with even moderate inflation without having to raise local revenues or cut expenditures. The governor has continued her pattern of gradually reducing state support for local public education.

“It’s troubling,” says Apruzzese. “The effects are likely to be the continued elimination of teaching positions, reduction in education resources, and the end of programs that serve Connecticut students. Where does it stop?”

CommPACT Recognized by National Organization

A CommPACT Schools classroom - Barnum School, Bridgeport.

A CommPACT classroom – Barnum School, Bridgeport.

The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is introducing a new approach to accrediting teacher education programs and has identified the CommPACT Schools initiative as a national model for the new system.

This morning, Richard Schwab, dean of the Neag School of Education at UConn, spoke at a press conference at the National Press Club announcing NCATE’s new accreditation program.  The Neag School is a CommPACT partner along with CEA, American Federation of Teachers – CT, CT Association of Public School Superintendents, CT Association of Urban Superintendents, and CT Federation of School Administrators.

“The CommPACT Schools initiative serves as a real-world laboratory for helping us prepare well-grounded educators who understand the causes of the achievement gap and the solutions for eliminating it,” said  Schwab.  Read about NEA President Van Roekel’s recent visit to Bridgeport CommPACT Schools.

NEA President Visits Bridgeport CommPACT Schools

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel heard encouraging reports from teachers, parents and principals during a visit yesterday to two Bridgeport CommPACT schools.  The new school reform experiment in Connecticut’s neediest cities may be the best hope for solving some of the vexing problems of America’s urban schools.

CommPACT, headed by the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, gives individual schools a significant degree of authority to transform themselves from within – a radical shift from the traditional top-down organization of most school systems.

Find out more about CommPACT Schools.

Below are photos of the visit.

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